My husband and I recently brought home two German shepherd puppies. Originally, the idea was to get just one puppy, a little girl. However, when we went to pick one out, we fell in love with the little boy. There was something not quite right with him, but no one knew what it was. Kyle and I became very worried about him, and decided that we should bring him home with us. We were worried that if we didn’t take him, no one else would. And if he went to a shelter, he would immediately be put down. So, he came home with us, and we named him Haans.
We thought he was just slow; developmentally stunted. But, once we got him home, we really got the chance to watch him, and we realized that there was a lot more wrong with him than we had previously thought. He walks in circles (always counter-clockwise), and has nystagmus in both eyes (also hard-wired to the left). He seems to be blind, constantly walks like he is drunk, has very poor balance, and is very vocal. Haans couldn’t even find his food and water bowl, and is impossible to potty train. He is also half the size of his sister, Luna, who was about 7.5 pounds (he was 3.3). In fact, he doesn’t even look like a shepherd; his head is very rounded and dome-like, and he has a short stubby snout, unlike the long and narrow face of German shepherds. One of his vets told us that if we said he was a Pomeranian, she wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
We became more and more worried about Haans. The very next morning we called around and tried to get him into a vet’s office. Only one was available, so we packed them up and took them in. The prognosis wasn’t good. The vet told us that he honestly had no idea what was wrong, but usually when something like this happens, the puppies get put down. Needless to say, Kyle and I were not happy with the way the appointment went, so on our next day off, we scheduled another appointment with a different vet in order to get another opinion.
The vets at the second hospital spent plenty of time with us, talking about symptoms, implications, tests and options for Haans. But ultimately, they gave us two options; we could either put Haans down, or we could treat him. Unfortunately, they believed that he had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) and the treatment for this disorder is a shunt, which drains the excess fluid and stops his brain from swelling more. But, the treatment could cost up to $5,000. Being fresh out of college, Kyle and I are both buried in school loans, and we knew we couldn’t afford a special needs puppy. But, we fell in love with him and we weren’t going to give up on him. They told us they could schedule a consultation with a neurologist and possibly get him an MRI which could cost up to $2,000 (and that's without the surgery!).
So, we have quite the decision to make. We want to give him a chance. He tries so hard to be a normal puppy; he tries to play and run with Luna, and he wags his tail and barks when he gets excited. And if we don’t give him a chance, no one else will. We don’t think it’s fair for him to lose his life just because we don’t have the money. But we also don’t want to put him through all of these procedures and pain just because we are being selfish and can’t handle losing him. Either way, we have decided that (even if he has to be put down) we need to know what his condition is. We wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we didn’t know. What if we decided to put him down, and it turned out to be something simple, that could have easily been fixed? I wouldn’t be able to live with myself; we needed to know. So, we made an appointment with the neurologist.
We talked to the neurologist about his symptoms and possible outcomes. He took little Haans with him to do an exam, and when he came back he had some interesting news. He doesn’t think it is hydrocephalus. In fact, what we had previously thought to be a fontanel, he believes to be a puncture wound. He did a very quick ultrasound to see if he could examine the brain underneath the puncture. From what he could see, Haans’ brain was compressed to about 1/3 of the entire capacity of his skull. The rest of the volume was taken up by some kind of fluid. Haans’ brain was being severely compressed and was actually flattened by the pressure of all the fluid in his skull. He believes that the fluid is an abscess, possibly caused by bacteria that could have been introduced when he received the puncture wound. Or, it could just be a large mass on the left side of the brain (which would explain why he always circles to the left). However, he won’t know for sure without an ultrasound, aspirate, and MRI.
If this is an abscess and not hydrocephalus, the treatment could be easier than previously thought. He wouldn’t need a shunt. However, the tests that he needs in order to confirm his diagnosis are going to cost upwards of $5,000, and that’s before he receives any treatment. But, there’s more good news. The vet knows how financially tied we are right now, and really wants to see Haans get better. Apparently, what he’s seen with Haans is very rare and they’d like to study him. They want to put a case study together about him which could benefit both of us. Not only would it help teach people about this condition and possibly help other dogs in the future, but since they’d like to study him they might be willing to discount some of his procedures in order to make it possible for him to receive treatment.
Even though the discounted procedures certainly help to make the financial burden easier to bear, we still can’t afford it. And that’s why we’re submitting this. We need help in order to give Haans the chance that he deserves. If we needed the money for ourselves, we would never ask for it. But, Haans is like our baby. We love him so much, and we want him to get the care that he needs. It wouldn’t be fair if he didn’t. I truly believe that he could be a normal puppy, he just needs help.
We’ve decided to give Haans the ultrasound and aspirate. This way, we could get an estimation as to how big the mass is, and what it consists of (puss, bacteria, fluid, etc.). They’re also going to give him a strong antibiotic to see if maybe it could alleviate some of his symptoms. The doctor said that in order to know 100% what is going on, Haans needs the MRI, but we simply don’t have the funds to do that right now. We’re hoping that if we can get other people to fall in love with him the way that we did, maybe we can all come together and raise enough money to get him the MRI and treatment that he needs. We are believing that Haans is going to get better. He has to. We love him so much, and we’d do anything to help him. If we can get help financially, we have the time and patience and care he needs to get through this. It’s hard to give an estimate as to how much everything is going to cost for Haans, but the estimate of the ultrasound, aspirate, antibiotic, and testing is about $600, and that’s after the vets waived their consultation fees. The doctor gave us another estimate, which includes the MRI and associated tests, which is about $4,000. And he's going to need treatment which could be another $4-5,000. Please, if you have it to spare, help us save our little boy, he means so much to us. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I’m sure Haans would also like to thank you, too.
Amber, Kyle, Luna and Haans
- Abby Belasen
- Jeanie Kilgour
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