Pet of the Month: Mia

Back in December this very special little Shih-Tzu was treated by Dr. Pulman for immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). This is a condition where the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues of the body and pick up carbon dioxide to be exhaled. Although new red cells continue to be produced, the immune system marks them for destruction. The body eventually runs a deficit of red cells at which point the patient becomes pale and weak.

Mia was brought to the hospital after collapsing at home. She was weak and anorexic upon admission and required a blood transfusion to improve blood circulation and oxygenation. It just so happened that one of our blood donors, Roxy, a chocolate Lab belonging to our RVT Lesley, was already at the hospital that day to have her picture taken with Santa. Roxy rose to the occasion, donating blood to help Mia. Despite feeling sick, Mia was very interested in the sound of the squeaky toy Santa was using; a few hours after her transfusion she walked into the lobby, headed over to the squeaky toy section and picked out the exact toy Santa had been using! Her dad bought it for her, of course.

Mia stayed in hospital for 3 days after her transfusion for monitoring and was started on immunosuppressive drugs. She continues to be on medication today, and will be for months to come, but she is doing great. Her bloodwork has been steadily improving and Dr. Pulman is optimistic that Mia is heading towards remission.

Mia is lucky to have a very loving family. Her mom, Shelley, was away when Mia became ill so she was brought in by dad, Leonard, and daughter, Nikola, who came for daily visits while Mia was hospitalized. Now that she’s home Mia is back to playing with her toys and mom is hopeful for a full recovery. Her illness requires medication be given promptly at 8am and 8pm daily, which isn’t always easy but she has very dedicated owners who are not only willing to ensure she gets her meds on time but are also trying to make it a positive experience for her. For the most part mom finds Mia is back to her old self, although she has changed up her habits, like sleeping in different parts of the house, and has gained a little weight, which are both likely the result of the steroid medication.

The underlying cause of IMHA is often idiopathic (unknown) which is the case for Mia. Early signs are often subtle which means that by the time patients are brought to the hospital their condition is critical. Regular check-ups and bloodwork are ways we can detect and treat anemia early on. The days preceding Mia`s collapse she had been acting a little off but her owners thought it was just because mom was away, there were no other warning signs.

Everyone at RAH is rooting for Mia –she has such a cheerful, upbeat personality that you can’t help but fall in love with her. It’s not surprising that at home she`s spoiled rotten, she even has her own custom made steps up onto the bed and the couch, courtesy of her dad. When she goes to the groomer she gets very excited because she loves being bathed and can`t get enough of the dryer! With some little dogs it is often hard to find a good motivator that will get them to do tricks and work on obedience but not so with Mia. She is ball crazy – just show her a ball and she’ll do whatever you want, even her groomer has a special tennis ball just for her.

IMHA is a disease we see commonly at RAH and it can prove challenging, both for staff and owners. Blood transfusions, monitoring, regular bloodwork, and daily medication administration demand dedication on everyone’s part but once the patient is in recovery it is very rewarding –best of luck to Mia going forward!


Mia getting a blood transfusion mia on the beach mia-in-the-snow-2 mia at the window