Agatha Christie did it. Sue Grafton did it. They wrote murder mysteries using the alphabet. Fiction, gratefully.
True crime instances of alphabet murders exist. Sadly.
I love reading a good mystery, and Christie and Grafton gave us some great reads using the alphabet. But for me, there are four letters of the alphabet that bring fear, anger, and sadness.
Anyone who knows me knows I love my dogs. I have an enduring affection for Pomeranians. For me, there’s no better breed, and they have the best, biggest fluffy tails ever. Ever.
Well, most Pomeranians have big fluffy tails. Not mine. She doesn’t have her big fluffy tail because of those four letters that I hate.
Yeah, I know, hate is a strong word. Believe me, it fits. These four letters are killers. I know this personally.
IMHA. If you are a dog (or cat) owner, you should fear these letters. They stand for Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia and they have left countless numbers of four-legged family members dead in their wake. Many are gone within hours of their owners learning of this disease.
IMHA is an autoimmune disease that sneaks up like a serial killer. Seemingly to kill at random, without warning.
What, exactly, is IMHA? The condensed answer is your pet’s immune system no longer recognizes their red blood cells as normal, but sees them as an invading marauder. The immune system ramps up and begins destroying them. Rapidly. Even if the disease is caught early and appropriate treatment given, it can be fatal.
I have personal experience with IMHA. On July 21, 2013, my beautiful Little Ali Sunshine was diagnosed with this killer. My life changed in the reading of a blood test. So did Ali’s.
Dealing with this disease is a daily emotional roller coaster. Our life became constant trips to the vet, blood transfusions, a medicinal cocktail of different steroids several times a day, and blood tests. Over and over, we took blood tests.
In the beginning, we were at our specialist’s office almost everyday. Over the next months, we were thrilled if we only went three or four times a week. Some of our appointments were scheduled, most were emergency visits. Red cell counts would be up one day, but then, drop the next. The effects on the body from the use of the powerful drugs in the treatment of IMHA are frightening.
On February 6, 2014, my life fell deeper into the IMHA hole. Ali’s littermate brother, our handsome, goofy Ty Beau, was also diagnosed with this monster.
We’ve all said it, or thought it…’like hell on earth’. There are really no other words that adequately describe the feeling. I was now dealing with two dogs battling a disease with a fifty to seventy percent fatality rate.
We did everything we were told to do, everything we could. Ali had been the runt of the litter, and I feared she wouldn’t be able to fight this beast. But, she did great. Sixteen months after diagnosis, she was off all medication, and six months later, our specialists said the one word I was praying to hear…remission. She remains in remission.
The journey didn’t take us down the same road with Ty. His body didn’t cope well with the treatments. He developed multiple conditions such as pancreatitis, an ulcer, and diabetes. In the end, it was his heart that gave out. We lost our precious Ty Beau on February 6, 2015, one year to the day he was diagnosed. He was only five years old. I can’t tell you how much it still hurts.
It’s been difficult to let go of the pain…I don’t think I ever will.
What is the cause behind this horrid disease? That is the mystery. It’s a complicated condition with no clear answers. Triggers at the top of the list include vaccinations, toxins, especially Zinc toxicity, as well as underlying causes like cancer. For most, the cause is never known.
I write this in the hope it will educate and inform. Here are some of the symptoms you can watch for:
- Weakness/Collapsing (this was one of the first symptoms with Ty and Ali)
- Pale Gums (This is a quick easy check)
- Loss of Appetite (this was one of the first symptoms with Ty and Ali)
- Panting or difficulty breathing
I would like to be able to tell you that I have no more worries with Ali, but the truth is, relapse is possible. I check her gums everyday to make sure they are nice and pink. We still see our specialist every few months. Ali will be on Enalapril (an ACE inhibitor) for her heart, and thyroid medication for life. She has Alopecia (hair loss) after her battle, but not having the characteristic Pomeranian poof and big fluffy tail doesn’t change how much I love her.
If you are a pet owner, my advice is knowledge. Know the symptoms, know your dog. Act quickly if you notice any of the above symptoms. Knowledge and quick action could mean the difference between life and death with IMHA.
This link will give you much needed information: IMMUNE MEDIATED HEMOLYTIC ANEMIA (IMHA)