Sunday, July 18, 2010

A wonderful story of chance, love and hope to save a Dog

A Kenyan vet believes a sickly dog saved his life - by preventing him from attending a Ugandan venue where several people were killed when a bomb exploded during the World Cup soccer final last week.
Instead, Dr Dickson Okello was in Entebbe, a few kilometres south-west of Kampala, waiting to fly to South Africa with Kia, a young German Shepherd - who was about to undergo a series of tests at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital north of Pretoria.

The hospital's medical team has since diagnosed the young dog with life-threatening heart defects which will hopefully be rectified during open-heart surgery later this week - a first of its kind for the facility.

The female puppy, was being fed vitamins through a drip at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon.

"We hope to have her back in Uganda by Tuesday or Wednesday next week," said Kia's Ugandan vet, Dickson Okello.

"Today she is on a drip, being fed minerals so that her strength is up for the operation tomorrow.

"After the operation she will spend a few days in hospital and then hopefully she'll be able to fly back to Uganda by Tuesday or Wednesday."

Breathing problems

Kia was born in the kennels of a breeder in Nairobi, Kenya. She was relocated to Jinja, Uganda with two other puppies to join the canine section of a family owned business conglomerate.

Within two weeks of relocation to her new home, however, she developed breathing problems and was treated for pneumonia by Okello, the resident veterinary surgeon.

Kia responded to the treatment, but four days later she showed the same signs of pneumonia, cyanosis - blueing of mucous membranes, exercise intolerance, hyperventilation and unthriftiness or stunted growth.

Okello said he heard heart murmurs which prompted him to "tentatively" diagnose a heart condition. He took an x-ray which only showed enlarged ventricles.

The ultrasound scan and the electrocardiogram could not reveal much.

"Because of these findings and the presenting clinical signs, he diagnosed a medical condition known as Patent Ductus Arteriosus, where a duct which connects the pulmonary artery and the aorta that closes at birth fails to close," Okello said.

"This leads to poor oxygenation of the blood and body tissues."

Intensive care

Kia's owners were concerned because the puppy was not living a good quality life.

"They asked if there was any treatment available for the condition and they were advised that only surgery to legate the duct was the definitive treatment, or else the dog would die of hypoxia or congestive heart failure."

Okello was asked to find out who or where the procedure to correct the condition could be performed.

He made enquiries and was directed to Professor Louis Coetzee at the Onderstepoort Veterinary Teaching Hospital (OVTH).

Coetzee discussed the case with Okello by telephone and email and he suggested that the dog be flown to Onderstepoort for further diagnostic imaging and tests. Okello accompanied Kia to Pretoria on July 12 for the appointment with Coetzee.

Upon arrival at the hospital from the airport in Johannesburg, Kia was taken straight to the Intensive Care Unit. Diagnostic tests including haematology and biochemistry were carried out on July 12, 13 and 14.

An ultrasound scan revealed more intracardiac defects such as pulmonic stenosis, ventricular septal defects, overriding aorta and ventricular hypertrophy, a condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot.


A human paediatric cardiologist from Montana Hospital in Pretoria was called in and he confirmed the condition of Kia's heart.

In the operation on Friday, surgeons will try to create a conduit between her pulmonary artery and aorta to enable more blood to be transported to the heart for oxygenation.

If successful, this will allow about 93% oxygenation of the blood that is transported the tissues.

"Kia is currently hospitalised at the ICU section of OVTH and is getting much love, attention and care that she deserves from all the medical team, surgical team and the students," Okello said.

Okello said Kia's owner was phoning every hour from Uganda to find out the latest news on his puppy.