2013-04-24 / Columnists

Pets pets pets

This week’s “Pets” is dedicated to “Henry” who was only with us briefly. He succumbed to kidney failure at an emergency hospital on April 11. Henry and his assumed sister “Koi” were probably discarded “yard or factory dogs.” They were fending for themselves in an industrial part of Lindenhurst, off Henry Street (hence, his name), filled with junkyards, a tree service and other businesses until Babylon Town Shelter picked them up on April 1 and gave them lots of tender loving care.

These sweet Golden/Shepherd/Chow mixes were about two years old. No one knows how long they had managed to survive on their own. Both were a filthy mess when they got to the shelter. Koi went straight to the shelter’s vet and stayed there after her difficult spay; while Henry was bathed, and then nursed in the quiet maternity room (now isolation) at Babylon Shelter. He became low key, thin and gradually refused to eat unless offered “people” food. He seemed to be dehydrated so the vet gave him fluids under the skin. All the while he’d gently thump his tail or rub up against you when anyone paid attention to him.


Henry & Koi collage (photo by Whitney Steiner) Henry & Koi collage (photo by Whitney Steiner) The siblings were delivered to Last Hope in Wantagh on April 9 when the shelter became concerned that they could not get Henry to swallow his worming meds. We hoped he’d do better with our 200 volunteer fairy godmothers/fathers. He perked up when he saw his sister so we asked that both dogs come together to help Henry regain his strength. Last Hope helpers started providing room service for Henry but his condition deteriorated. Henry became quite weak.

On the morning of April 11, Henry’s best pal Mark, a Last Hope volunteer who is a retired infection control RN, took him to the ER for an exam, ultrasound and blood work by the specialist team who soon determined that he was in end stage kidney disease. At the time, we didn’t have a definite cause. Lyme disease and diabetes were ruled out. Perhaps Henry ingested antifreeze in the junkyard, or starvation had done irreversible damage. Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection often spread by raccoon urine, was also a possibility.

Sadly, we put him down later that day because there was no chance of recovery, and then waited for the results of a kidney biopsy (in part, because we needed to ascertain if Koi had been exposed to antifreeze too). My vet brought me back to forensic reality when he explained: “A kidney biopsy will show certain changes if it’s antifreeze. It is not a tox screen; which is cost prohibitive in veterinary medicine. You would need to have some idea of what to screen for; it’s not CSI.” Therefore, unless Henry’s results showed characteristic crystals that pinpoint antifreeze, we may never have a definitive answer. Another vet who heard the timeline questioned whether Henry would have lasted so long (at least 11 days) if he had swallowed ethylene glycol (antifreeze).

In the meantime, Koi moved to an animal hospital for continued treatment of a nasty eye infection and to determine if her slight head tilt was a related ear infection. Our doctor decided that the ear/eye problem was not connected, and that Koi may have experienced head trauma (hit by a car?) while running loose. Her kidneys were fine. She had an approved home waiting for her once her eye was better. A nice couple with a German Shepherd had followed Koi from Babylon Shelter to Last Hope.

Five days after Henry died, the internist called with his biopsy report. Her suspicions about antifreeze were confirmed. The pathologist saw the telltale calcium oxalate crystals in his kidneys. The internist explained that during the first 24 hours, antifreeze symptoms which are similar to alcohol poisoning (walking drunk, drooling, vomiting, excessive thirst/urination) would have been apparent; but after that time frame, these symptoms subside, while dehydration and the unstoppable kidney damage set in. Henry somehow got into this poison long before he was on the shelter or rescue’s radar. By the time we met him, it was too late to help him. The specialist also said that dialysis could only work if done right away.

It doesn’t take much ethylene glycol to be a lethal dose- as little as a teaspoon for a cat; two for a dog, depending on the size and metabolism. My doctor added that Henry may have had chronic exposure. Perhaps he was walking about junkyard radiators, continuously licking his paws. We will never know. We do know that all pet owners need to be vigilant about antifreeze drips on their driveways or storing the lethal liquid in their garages to safeguard their pets.

What we also know is that rescue is not always about “happily ever after” but instead about trying the best we can to help dogs/cats who have suffered unthinkable trials and tribulations. Sometimes we can bring desperate dogs and cats back from the brink of death, and later find them fabulous homes. (Hopefully, Koi is in that category. She was adopted today, as I type this.) Yet, other times we must find solace in knowing that we surrounded these unfortunate creatures with love and devotion for the short time we were privileged to embrace them. And that they loved us back, just as our huggable teddy bear Henry did.

Note: Henry’s story references eight different veterinarians.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Fletch” #13-22 is the latest stray Beagle. This mature, fine fellow was found in W. Babylon. “Clover” #13-154, a female Pit, came into the shelter in March emaciated, cut up and with bad skin. With a month of TLC, she has made a major transformation at the shelter. The only thing missing from this perfect picture is her home sweet home.

Cats: Calico #3-85; “Nadia” #3-113- sweet semi-longhair tabby, found in industrial area, would run out when the coffee truck arrived.

Dogs: “Chino” #13-209-Min Pin; “Seymour” #13-167- Mr. Personality; “Twiggy” #13-162- petite, gray Pit.

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