Frankie's IMHA Recovery

On Friday, August 11, we noticed that our 3-year-old dog, Frankie, was extremely lethargic, had pale gums and skin, and was just not himself. We brought him to the vet immediately, and after hours of testing,  Frankie was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).

His immune system was reacting against his red blood cells just as it would against a foreign bacteria or virus. When this happens, the red blood cells are destroyed, anemia results, and oxygen delivery is greatly reduced. If left untreated, this autoimmune disease can lead to death.

Packed cell volume (PCV) and Hematocrit (HCT) are measures of the relative amount of red
blood cells present in the blood. Normal is 40% to 60%. On Friday, Frankie was at only 17%.

Over the weekend at home, we tried to suppress his immune system from killing his red blood cells with the use of a steroid (Prednisone). On Saturday, his PCV and HCT readings were at 24%, which was promising. However, by Monday, he had dropped down to 16%.

At this point, we made the decision to hospitalize him and receive an overnight blood transfusion. The next day (Tuesday), his PCV and HCT were holding steady at 23%, and by Wednesday morning, Frankie was considered to be stable at 25%.

We checked him out of the hospital on Wednesday evening, and he is resting comfortably at home with a strict steroid, antibiotic, and aspirin schedule.

If Frankie continues to stay stable or improve for the rest of this week and over the weekend, he will begin to have his blood checked at his regular vet once a week until his PCV, HCT, and other factors are back in the normal range.

Once the vet feels it's time, we can begin to slowly wean him off the steroids and other drugs. If he does not react well to the weaning, he may have to be on a dose of steroids for the remainder of his life.

If he successfully weans off his medicine over a series of months, blood clots and relapsing will be something we need to monitor.

While the cause for IMHA in Frankie is unknown, we are still awaiting the results of a tick panel to rule out any specific tick-borne infectious diseases. However, we are highly suspicious that his immune system was reacting to receiving 5 vaccinations in one day on July 14. In the future, he may be exempt from all vaccinations.

Between his regular vet, the emergency clinic, and the internist, Frankie has racked up quite a bill. Between Friday, August 11 and Wednesday, August 16, his medical bills have surmounted to $3,500. This does not include the future costs for his weekly blood tests, drug refills, or any other recovery needs.

We would not have been able to get through these past 6 days without the love, support, thoughts, prayers, text messages, and calls from Frankie's and our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc.

Since Frankie has so many people in his life who love him, we thought they might want to lessen the financial burden on us with a contribution toward his continued recovery.

One-third of dogs suffering from IMHA die in-part because their owners opt for euthanasia due to the exorbitant expenses for treatment. While that was never an option for us, we do need your help to get us through this difficult period of our lives.

We truly appreciate your support and thank you from the bottom of our hearts!


Andy, Katie, Frankie, and Fritz

P.S. read more about IMHA here.


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Katie Cupp 
Savannah, GA
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