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Harlow's Canine IBD Diagnosis & Recovery

Follow Harlow's Amazing Transformation

Meet Harlow, a very special 7-year-old Weimaraner who has shown incredible resilience and determination to recover from life threatening illness with the support of the Small Animal Specialist Hospital (SASH) Team.

Harlow was first referred to see their Internal Medicine team with a long history of reoccurring gastrointestinal problems – especially burping, gas in the stomach, weight loss, diarrhoea.

Prior to referral, Harlow had a preventative treatment called a gastropexy for a life-threatening condition called GDV. A GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) essentially is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and causes bloat, which then causes the stomach to flip and compress against vital organs. 

A gastropexy prevents this from happening via a procedure where part of the stomach is permanently sutured to the abdominal wall. It is commonly recommended in large breed, deep chested dogs and a GDV is a life-threatening emergency if left untreated. It doesn’t treat the cause of the problem, but it can prevent this life-threatening complication.

When Harlow was 5 years old, she started losing a substantial amount of weight, despite normal things like eating and exercising normally.

In fact, the usually lean Weimaraner Harlow suddenly refused all but the minimum of food, and was skin and bones. Her concerned owners acted quickly and started investigating at their local vets. With Harlow quickly averaging around 2-3 trips per week, and each trip failing to find anything of concern, they knew something was desperately wrong.

Upon seeing how quickly she was deteriorating, it was suggested that Harlow see the team at SASH, Sydney's Small Animal Specialist Hospital, whose specialist team routinely deal with complex cases.

At this point, Harlow was vomiting blood, had gastric torsion, and was suffering from multiple bouts of bloat (pictured below at her worst). 

Dr Amy Lam, an internal medicine specialist, was assigned Harlow's case and quickly began running diagnostics. Harlow had tests including an ultrasound, blood tests which were unremarkable.

After a tearful Friday night, and the couple running on adrenaline from seeing their dog so sick, Alana and her partner had concluded the kind thing was to make a difficult choice to end her suffering and let Harlow go peacefully. Shaken and dismayed at their decision, they prepared to update the team at SASH with their news.

But Dr Lam beat them to it! She had run more tests and quickly realised Harlow's symptoms were likely caused by huge amounts of inflammation through the entire digestive tract, via Canine IBD — a rare hyperimmune/autoimmune condition.

Initially as Harlow was so sick – the team had to try some treatment trials – diets and medications to try and improve gut health. They then proceeded with an endoscopy when she wasn’t responding to treatment and she was diagnosed with Chronic Neutrophilic Enteritis. This is a rare inflammatory disorder that affects the intestines. Prognosis is worse than other forms of intestinal bowel disease (IBD). Harlow was extremely skinny and malnourished, but still bright and wanting to live.

Harlow was started on medications and the unconventional solution proposed was a plant-based diet. It can take weeks before seeing responses to a treatment and sometimes, it treatment needs to be changed – including the diet 
– entirely and start again. 

Harlow’s owners stayed committed to the cause, researching and working closely with Dr Amy. The hard work paid off. She slowly started to improve and have less bloating. Harlow’s mum also started to learn more about dietary interventions, and together, after 6 months of hard work, they started to see an incredible response to treatment. 

When Harlow presented, she was “one of the sickest dogs the department had seen," weighing in at 13kg (from 23kg.)
At her most recent visit, Harlow’s bright and happy energy was reflective with the healthy amount of weight she had gained.

Harlow is living proof that an Internal Medicine Specialist working closely with dedicated owners (like Alana) can really help the sickest of animals.

This experience had a life changing impact on her mum too...

How the quick diagnosis and action plan inspired Harlow's mum to embark on a new career

So moved by the quality of care Harlow had received from Dr Lam, and how quickly Harlow's health improved, Alana made the huge life decision to return to University in pursuit of a career as a Vet.

“I hope to follow in similar footsteps to that of Amy’s and to one day help other animals like Harlow by specialising in Internal Medicine - Veterinary Nutrition, an area I have become so passionate about as a result of this journey.”

And it wasn't all bedside manners. Alana and Dr Lam have kept in touch, forging a friendship and with Dr Lam mentoring her, Alana will intern at SASH under Dr Lam when her degree requires it.

You can keep up to date with Harlow's journey @thisweimlife 


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