dog health

When “Muttu made it!”

Doctors in India and the USA collaborate to cure the deadly Canine Distemper, a first of its kind in Bangalore, and saved a twelve-week-old stray called Muttumani.

Me and Muttu…

In early January 2010, I found a little stray puppy outside my home. She must have been all of nine weeks atDog Health the time (a little over two months old) and looked like she hadn’t eaten for days. I fed her some biscuits and milk and I knew I’d made a friend for life! With the help of my family, we started feeding her regularly and even put an old brown box outside so that she can get some respite from the cold. I can’t remember clearly when we named her, but Muttumani had grown to become everyone’s new and endearing little friend.

Muttu’s woes…

I noticed a sharp change in Muttu’s behaviour. The once energetic and loving dog was reduced to a disturbed, weak, disinterested and evidently sick dog. She ate her food but not with the same enthusiasm and always stayed in her box. And in a few days, she got worsen – laboured breathing and discharge from her eyes and nose. I had a bad feeling that she may be slipping away. That’s when I decided to take Muttu to our family vet, Dr Pavan Kumar and he confirmed my worst fear; Muttu was diagnosed with Canine Distemper.

When I was younger, I had lost my pet dog to Distemper. My family was living in the East at the time and the preventive vaccine was not available in that part of the country. I remember watching the virus slowly affecting each and every part of my dog – leaving him paralysed and suffering for many days before killing him. And at the time, all treatments prescribed proved useless.

Dr Pavan too let me know that her chances of “making it” were slim. I came home hopeless with a lingering thought of possibly taking an extreme step of putting her down – I wanted to spare her the suffering.

A ray of hope…

I started surfing the internet to search for ways to keep Muttu comfortable in her last days and that’s when I found the website: Kind Hearts in Action that profiled Dr Alson Sears and the treatment he developed to cure Distemper.

The treatment…

The treatment is based on the Newcastle Disease Vaccine (NDV) designed to give chickens immunity from Newcastle disease, but when the vaccine is injected into a dog something entirely different happens. The Newcastle Vaccine creates a thunderstorm of activity within the dog’s immune system that unleashes a previously unknown class of cytokines — proteins that create an immune response — that can enter a cell infected with distemper and kill the virus. The website mentions that one doesn’t know how or why it works but it works quickly, often within 24 hours.

The serum is created by using a healthy donor dog, who is injected with the NDV vaccine. The donor dog’s immune system is triggered and at a crucial time, blood is drawn from the donor. The serum is made from this blood and then can be used to save a dog suffering from Distemper … usually in the pre-neurological stage. If used quickly, the serum can stop a dog from ever having seizures. However, there is also treatment for dogs in the advanced neurological stage of Distemper.

The course of action…

I contacted Dr Sears on e-mail and he responded within 4 hours with the protocol for the cure which is also available on his website http://kindheartsinaction.com. He advised us that time is of the essence and that Distemper is treatable in the initial 4-6 days.

In Bangalore, Dr Pavan was optimistic and willing to carry out the procedure. It was, however, a challenge to find NDV in Bangalore but I finally found the vaccine at Nathan Pharma (for poultry animals) at Shivajinagar. Once the NDV was purchased, Dr Pavan and his team found it a challenge to find a donor dog. According to the procedure, most pedigree dogs cannot be used as donors. The donor dog (preferably a local dog) must be free of parasites so as to be able to produce cytokines – required to kill the Distemper virus. However, in less than twelve hours, Dr Pavan had convinced his friend to let his dog Macho, get injected with NDV and donate blood for preparing serum.

Macho’s blood was collected eleven hours later and finally at half past midnight, we gave Muttu her first serum injection. The next two shots followed twelve hours apart. And while all this happened, I kept Dr Sears updated and he was an invaluable guide through the procedure. On January 27, 2010 Muttu’s temperature had come down as predicted by Dr Sears and when Dr Pavan tested her for Distemper – she tested negative. Muttu had made it!

The gratitude…

When told about Muttu’s victorious battle against Distemper, Dr Sears said in an e-mail, “I’m happy your dog is better. It has always been difficult to lose a trusted friend to this disease.”

Muttu, now a healthy and beautiful puppy who possesses her own medical card, is looking for a home and a loving family to call her own. You can write to muttu.winner@gmail.com to know more about adopting Muttu.

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