A few weeks ago one of our clients rescued an adorable Staffy mix which they named Molly. Unfortunately, at five and a half weeks old and weighing in at only 1.73kg, she was not very well.
Her owner brought her straight to the vet as she noticed that the colour of her gums were quite pale and she was very lethargic. Normal gums should be a pink colour, and pale pink to white gums may indicate blood loss or shock. They were met by Dr. Tanya Lovelock who examined Molly to try and determine what was causing the pale gums.
Dr Tanya took an in-clinic blood test known as a PCV/TP. PCV or packed cell volume measures the percentage of red blood cells in the pet. TP or total protein tells the amount of proteins in a fluid portion of blood. Both the puppies PCV and TP were well below normal: PCV was 0.15 (normal ranges 0.37- 0.55 ) and TP was 0.38 (normal ranges 0.54 - 0.78). This was a good indication that she was suffering from anemia, which is a condition of having lower than normal red blood cells.
A complete blood profile was taken and sent to Gribbles, our external pathology lab. This was to determine the specific characteristic of the red cell itself as Dr. Tanya wanted to figure out what the anemia was caused by. Her suspicions were a worm burden and poor nutrition however it also could be caused by a degenerative trait or something Molly was born with. For example it could be that her bone marrow was unable to make her own red blood cells. To be on the safe side she was given a worming tablet and the owners were to continue her on good quality puppy food.
The next day the blood results came back and it was good news. Molly’s anemia was caused by a very heavy worm burden and poor nutrition. In her case it could be easily treated. They also showed that she was suffering from iron deficiency, another complication of her Mum being fed a poor diet and the sheer amount of worms in her system. She was wormed again and started on iron supplements.
It is very important to worm your pets at every age and specifically when they are young. Kittens and puppies should be wormed every 2 weeks until 3 months (12 weeks) of age and then monthly until they are 6 months. After that you can go to three monthly for the rest of their lives. As seen in Molly's case, worms can lead to very serious illnesses. They can also affect your family as some types of worms can be passed onto humans.
Proper nutrition is very important in our pets but even more so in pregnant/nursing mothers and in young pets. Molly's iron deficiency was caused by not only her worm burden but by nursing off a mother who had not been fed a diet rich enough in protein. This can cause the red cells to not develop as they should, contributing to poor Molly’s anemia. If you are unsure what to feed your pet at any stage of their lives please contact your Veterinarian.
Lucky for Molly she has found a wonderful family and is on the road to recovery. Her latest blood tests have shown her improving in leaps and bounds. Her owners report that she is doing really well at home and we look forward to seeing her again soon!
For more information on caring for your new puppy or kitten, click here.