Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curing a street dog of two deadly diseases might be easier than finding him a home

Photo: Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
by Katerina Lorenzatos Makris

Agapi is under siege.

Probably at least a year ago, somewhere here on the island of Kefalonia, he was bitten by a sand fly, says our local vet Dr. Amanda Mikeleti. The insect injected into his skin a protozoan parasite called Leishmania, which over the months reproduced and multiplied, and has already caused the following:

  • hideous sores and ulcers in and around his eyes and on his legs
  • possibly some blindness
  • dry and sparse coat
  • weight loss
  • muscle atrophy
  • joint inflammation and swelling
  • rapidly growing, twisted and deformed nails
If allowed to progress, it could bring anemia, polyarthritis, and lameness, damage his liver and kidneys, and even trigger heart attacks.

This dog, who we were told had been wandering the streets of the village of Troianata for at least two years before a small team of friends and I caught him last week, is also doing battle with a tick-borne bacteria called Ehrlichia, which if left untreated could create all sorts of problems ranging from retinal hemorrhage to neurological disease.

Photo: Katerina Lorenztos Makris
The good news

In the little red vial that Dr. Amanda sent to Athens a few days ago, the laboratory found that the Leishmania parasite inhabits one part per 1,600 parts of Agapi’s blood. This, says the vet, is considered to be a medium to high concentration.

The good news is that if we go forward with a 28-day course of an expensive drug called Milteforan, the vet feels its chances of killing enough of the Leishmaniasis parasite to give Agapi a high quality of life, or possibly to deliver him from this vicious enemy altogether, are about 80 percent.

She said she has successfully treated patients with concentrations of higher than 2,000.

Because Agapi’s appetite is great, and he has no vomiting or diarrhea, the vet believes his liver and kidneys are fine.

And to free him from the Ehrlichia is a very simple matter of a 30-day course of the antibiotic doxycycline.

Further good news: on Sunday we started him on Zylapour (Allopurinol), the inexpensive medication used for Leishmaniasis, and I think I’m already seeing some improvement in the lesions.  Dr. Amanda says that wouldn’t be unusual; dogs often respond quickly to the drug.

Additionally, the vet sees it as a good sign for his chances of recovery that in spite of his skin condition and muscle atrophy, and despite the fact that he sleeps a lot, Agapi seems generally vigorous and interested in his surroundings—not at all lethargic or depressed.

Agapi enjoying a good roll in the grass (Photo: Katerina Lorenzatos Makris)
 What next?

After explaining the test results, Dr. Amanda asked me, “OK, then what?  Let’s say we perform the treatment and get him healthy, then what will you do with him?  Where will he go?”

Good question. She knows I already have a overflowing house of rescued dogs who I’ve left for far too long. They are 8,000 miles away in California with my amazingly patient hubsy, a.k.a. The Saint. I need to get home as soon as possible, not only because I miss the whole bunch of them, but because my mom needs to come live with us, like, yesterday.

Finding Agapi a good home in Greece—a country already drowning in unwanted animals—is nearly impossible.  And I’m told by fellow rescuers that folks in other European countries such as Hollandm Germany, and Denmark, who often adopt cats and dogs from Greece (bless them!), typically don’t want Leish dogs, even if they’ve been treated and/or cured.

Speaking of The Saint… he has kindly volunteered to fund Agapi’s treatment if that’s the path we decide to take. Which moves me to tears every time I think about it. I didn’t even have to send him Agapi’s horrifying photos to compel him to this generosity.  All I did was mumble a few things like “bleeding eyes, sores, deformed nails, parasite,” and he was there.

But again, then what?

More about Agapi:

Please visit The Dozen Dogs Diaries again soon for upcoming articles about Agapi.

Better yet, sign in with the 'Join this blog' button above to receive an email notice whenever there's a new article.

Read Melissa Beamish's excellent blog about her round-the-world trip volunteering in animal shelters, including a month at Kefalonia's ARK.

To donate or to volunteer on behalf of animals in Kefalonia, contact Animal Rescue Kefalonia (ARK) and Kefalonia Animal Trust (KATs).

The Dozen Dog Diaries (DDD) would be delighted if you'd spread the links to these articles. Please just keep in mind that reprint or re-post of more than a paragraph or two of the text or of any of the photos is allowable only by explicit permission from DDD, who may be contacted at youradopteddogATyahooDOTcom. Thanks for visiting!

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