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Sera: IBD Journey

Education > Patient Stories 1st October 2018

11-year-old Sera is an ex-breeding dog, rescued by Voices of Animals and adopted into a wonderful family.

At the time of presentation to vet specialist Dr Nathalee Prakash at Mount Pleasant (Gelenggang), Sera was having profuse diarrhoea and was not eating despite previous medical management received. She had been having intermittent diarrhoea and soft stools for the past few months.

Sera was hospitalised for 5 days when she started vomiting and having bloody diarrhoea. She is currently being managed for her chronic enteropathy.

All forms of chronic enteropathy result in inflammation of the intestinal tract. Left untreated, the body sends cells from the immune system to the affected area, causing abnormally high levels of white blood cells (such as lymphocytes, plasmacytes, eosinophils, neutrophils) to be detected in the intestine. This results in an inappropriate inflammatory response to antigens normally ignored, resulting in the clinical signs of vomiting and diarrhoea.

In more severe cases, the inflammation can lead to protein loss through the intestines and other complications such as oedema (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity or swelling of the legs), or a propensity to throw clots or thromboembolic events.

Tests are done to rule out stomach and intestinal parasites, cancers, infections and other diseases. Definitive diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) requires an intestinal biopsy - tissue samples are taken during endoscopy and sent for histopathology.

Watch out for: frequent diarrhoea, soft stools with blood or mucus, vomiting, increased gut sounds, weight loss. Although IBD may require immunosuppressive therapy, some forms of chronic enteropathy can be managed successfully with dietary modification to a novel protein, and by balancing or restoration of the gut flora.

Sera's family shares with us how it has been caring her:

How are you coping with Sera’s daily care?

I take each day as it comes. Any day when she does not have diarrhoea is a good day. The oesophageal tube inserted when she was under anaesthesia for biopsy is a godsend - I’m so glad I took Dr Prakash’s advice. Sera needs 7 syringes of food 4 times a day. With the feeding tube, she receives the nutrients to recover without the stress of being force-fed.

What motivates you?

My greatest motivation is the unconditional love my dogs give me. They teach me to look forward, not backward. To not dwell on the past, to move forward. Everyday, my dogs remind me to be a better person.

Advice for families going through similar challenges?

Take each day as it comes. As long as they are eating, pooping and peeing, it’s a good day for me. As long as I look into their eyes and see their spirit to live, I will continue to fight alongside them.

BUT do not do this alone. I am so grateful for friends who have given me so much support. Some came with food for Sera when she was not eating, some came with food for me when I was too tired to cook, some accompanied me to the vet, helped me to buy bandages for Sera’s dressing and read up about her condition, came with blankets when she was warded, offered probiotics from their precious stash. Not forgetting those who prayed for Sera. Looking after a sick dog is not easy, don’t be shy to ask for help. We are all here for each other.

Find a vet and clinic you are comfortable with. This is so important when you have a dog down with a long term illness. I cannot stress how crucial it is to have a vet who is able to give you a clear plan of treatment. Knowing where the road leads for your dog, even if it means eventual palliative care, will help you to better face each day.

A vet who is able to do that means a lot to owners with sick pets. I have found Dr Nathalee Prakash to be such a vet. Kind, patient and always has the best interests of the animal at heart.

Last piece of advice - join an online support group for the illness your pet has. The emotional support I receive helps me through the really bad days. There is nothing like knowing that somewhere around the world, there are owners like me worrying about my dog’s next poop and cheering for joy at the ‘thud’ a well-formed poop makes on the pee pad!