“She is a Miracle”
From W.O.L.F. Staff Jillian Depperman
Based on comments and questions that we have received in regard to Skye’s medical conditions and continued care, we asked our staff veterinarian Dr. Valerie Johnson to give our supporters some further details about Skye’s complex medical situation. We hope you enjoy reading her insights into Skye’s condition and Skye herself.
What are the medical conditions that that are afflicting Skye?
We first discovered that Skye had a chronic abdominal wall hernia in which several of her organs that were in her abdomen were now up in her chest. This is usually caused by a blunt force trauma; we see it often in dogs that are hit by cars. Her body had done its best to heal, and it is actually amazing that she was doing as well as she was. We did surgery to repair that, and we found that a good portion of her liver was up in her chest. That portion of the liver was no longer viable, so it was removed. At that time, her liver enzymes were elevated; it was thought that she likely had some degree of liver disfunction.
The first job was to get her safely through that surgery, which was tricky, as she had a very low body weight. Soon after we got her through surgery, we noticed that she was not mentally appropriate. She had some history of this, and her previous rescuers thought that she was blind. However, after her surgery, we determined that she was indeed visual, but she still was not acting normally and then had a seizure. We did further testing and realized that her liver function was so low that it was actually causing toxins to accumulate, which was affecting her neurologic status. We treated her for this condition, which is called hepatic encephalopathy, and she did quite well with treatment. She started acting more normally; however, she continued to have seizures. We did an MRI and discovered that she had evidence of damage to the brain from the toxins accumulating from the liver disease, which indicated that she likely would be epileptic for the rest of her life. We have started her on epilepsy medications, and she is doing quite well on those.
Why is Skye on a diet of hard-boiled eggs and mashed potatoes, and why can’t she eat meat?
When dogs have liver failure or signs of nervous system disfunction from liver failure, we want to decrease the amount of work on the liver as much as possible. The liver has a certain ability to regenerate; however, at a certain point, it can become so damaged that there is no way for it to recover on its own. Our hope was that Skye had enough functional liver that she would be able to regenerate on her own and that eventually, her liver would function better than it was initially. The liver has a lot of jobs to do, one of which is to process proteins, so we want to try to decrease the amount of jobs that it has to do. We often put animals with liver disease on a low protein diet, so the liver has to do less work processing that protein and can perform its other functions, such as clearing toxins out of the blood. If her liver function does improve to the point where we think she can handle more protein, we will likely add in more protein at that time.
What specialized monitoring will Skye require beyond the basic veterinary care required for all animals?
It will be relatively intense monitoring as we try to decrease some of the medications for her epilepsy and liver disfunction. A lot of that will consist of observations from the staff at W.O.L.F. As we start to decrease the drugs, we will closely monitor any changes such as those impacting activity, sleep, and vision. Along the way, we will be monitoring her bloodwork to see what her liver function is doing. She will likely need to be on anti-epileptic drugs for the rest of her life. As long as she is not continuing to have seizures or the seizures are not increasing in frequency, we may not need to do more monitoring for that, but we might need to do another MRI if things are changing. Her future care will consist of getting her off of certain medications, seeing how she does as we increase the amount of protein, getting her weight stabilized, and continuing lifelong medications for her seizures. Hopefully, she can live like a normal wolf once her body weight increases and her liver starts to regenerate.
What are your personal thoughts on Skye?
Skye is such a character. I have rarely met an animal with such character as this wolf. By character, I mean the naughtiest, most tenacious, sweet, adorable animal. She really is a miracle, because she lived under such horrifying conditions. She clearly had an intense will to live. I don’t know of many animals that could have survived with the medical conditions that she had. She easily could have died from that surgery in the condition that she was in, from her liver disfunction, from her brain disfunction, but no, every day she’d wake up and say, “Where’s my breakfast and what can you do for me now?” This is the animal that was tied to a tree, hit by either a car or a baseball bat, and she immediately trots in here looking for a treat and expects us all to be her personal slaves. What a will to live and what a character. If anyone ever deserved to live the best life, it’s her.
I would like to add that Skye would not have survived without the tremendous work that everybody who works at W.O.L.F. has done for her. People have come together to make a place where she is safe and can be monitored, to cook food for her all day, to give her meds in the middle of the night… It has just been an amazing experience to watch everybody come together over this one animal. For her part, Skye has made an amazing recovery. I honestly did not expect her to do well. Every time she recovered from something, I was surprised. Not to mention that in the middle of all of this, she suddenly came in with no bone marrow for reasons that we will never know. An animal with that alone has probably a twenty percent chance of survival. She made it through that with liver failure, epilepsy, and recovery from a major surgery. Multiple times, I thought, “This is it. She won’t be able to make it through this.” She proved us all wrong, and I am amazed at the strength of this animal and her will to live. She is a miracle.