On 3rd June 2023, we welcomed “Peaches” who's history is limited as she was a stray in the Pound. Her age is estimated to be between 2-4 years old.
Peaches' has been undergoing a transformation in care which has led to an ever-changing range of skills and personality.
What is Peaches like?
Although she shows some serious neurological symptoms, Peaches' cognitive abilities continue to improve. Peaches is a brain damaged dog, but she is clever. She's learnt commands like "up!" to indicate someone is going to be picking her up. Plus "dinner", "outside" and "toilets". Peaches has been crate-trained. Peaches will let you know when she wants to be taken outside, fed, or picked up.
After completing her MRI and diagnostics, we learnt that Peaches has a serious neurological condition detailed below. After consulting a Neurologist based in the USA who is overseeing her care, we understand she has hope of a positive prognosis.
Peaches presented with serious neurological symptoms on her arrival in Christchurch: constant circling, unsteadiness, almost full vision loss and restlessness (ie. unable to sit still if not on a
Thanks to the help of our supporters, on 31st June 2023, Peaches underwent her ultrasound with Dr Richard Lucy and then her MRI at McMaster & Heap Vets (Christchurch). This scan shows pockets of inflammation, adema, and swelling throughout the brain (multi-focal), consistent with an auto-immune cause. Thank you to Dr Michele McMaster and Dr Terryne Loney of McMaster & Heap for your not only your skill and expertise, but kindness and compassion with little Peaches.
Peaches now has a world renowned Neurologist, Dr Nicholas DePompa, of Southeast Veterinary Neurology in Florida, USA consulting on her case and working alondgside her vets in New Zealand. He advises that Peaches' likely diagnosis is: Meningoencephalitis of Unknown Etiology ("MUE") – this means essentially something has caused Peaches the immune system to attack her brain which has led to her symptoms. Learn more about MUE here.
In addition to this, we also learnt from an x-ray in September 2023 that Peaches has a septum deformity (likely from birth). Her nasal passages are connected as there's no bone in the middle. It's uncomfortable for her and upsets her. Peaches has always been water adverse and drinking from a bowl is unpleasant as it goes into her nose. So to combat this, upon suggestion from our vets, clever Peaches has been trained to drink using a rabbit dropper bottle! She knows how to find and use this now on her own. It's also a bit of a cute quirk!
Peaches began a combination of medications to treat her inflammation. But lately, many of these have been able to be phased out, due to her progress. We have reduced her Gabapentin and Triazadone now she is more settled and hope to remove this completely.
Peaches usually now only has meds twice per day (AM and PM) - The Atopica and Prednisone (for her brain inflammation), and Triazadone (for sleep). Gabapentin mid-day if needed due to going to physio or vet appointment.
Peaches also continues to have a drug called Cytarabine (ie. Cytosar-U, DepoCyt) which we import from the USA in vials of 5 to reduce cost. This is the life-saving treatment that reduces the inflammation in her brain . We know she may need it for 12-24 months and we must reduce it slowly to ensure no relapse.
Peaches had her first infusion of Cytarabine on 17/06/2023 and every 3 weeks thereafter. Originally, she had to be in the clinic for 8 hours and recieve this by IV. However in October 2023, we switched to the injection form, which she has at home every 3 weeks and it's much easier and quicker.
The Prednisone is being reduced at present as our goal is to have Peaches on the lowest dose of Prednisone possible. Dogs do suffer side effects but we have to reduce it carefully (to ensure no relapse occurs) The Atopica may be lifelong also. The Neurologist advises Peaches will require the Cytarabine every 3-weeks for the next few months. We could then space the Cytarabine injections out. But may need to continue them periodically for 12-24 months, depending on how well her symptoms are controlled.
Our goal is that she enters remission with as little symptoms and meds daily as possible! But there's no time frame on this.
Peaches has come such a long way on these medications and they've restored her sight and abilities considerably in only a few months. Peaches doesn't experience any side-effects from the infusions, even though it is a chemo drug. It is given in a much smaller dose than humans and known to be well tolerated. Peaches is also fine being handled by the vet clinics, especially as they kindly allow our foster team to sit with and comfort her, when needing to be at the vets for the day.
Peaches cannot be vaccinated in future – this will further ramp up her immune system and result in a relapse. But titre tests show she has immunity to parvo and kennel cough.
Since beginning her treatments - The difference in her (to those who met and cared for her initially) is shocking! Peaches is much more bright, alert, calm and content (less restless) than she was previously. Peaches’ two biggest symptoms were the almost total blindness and the tight circling to the left when you put her on the ground.
But Peaches can see and even follow you from room to room! She recognizes those she knows with a little lick. Peaches will also go over to sniff objects that interest her outside - or other dogs! This is a huge cognitive and vision change that we didn’t see in her prior.
It’s heartwarming to see Peaches begin normal dog stuff - rolling on grass or grooming herself. Peaches now enjoys pen or crate time and walking on a lead. Peach also began learning the command "sit”! Peaches is reclaiming more of her functions and personality each day. Plus focusing on helping her realize her independence and a “normal dog” routine.
P is slowly learning new people aren't scary and she's capable of accepting newcomers as long as they're patient and don't overwhelm. Peaches has the courage to approach and sniff new people but should be ignored so she can come around in her own time.
Since beginning the infusions, Peaches has regained sight and control of things like her speed balance and co-ordination. Peaches' awareness and cognitive ability has increased. She now sleeps in a crate, knows commands, walks on a lead, will indicate when she needs the toilet, goes up stairs, and acknowledges her surroundings, people and other dogs.
After meeting Peaches' and determining she had neurological issues, we put in a lot of time, consideration and research, into considering whether it was possible for a small charity like ours to provide funding for Peaches' treatment. Alongside evaluating Peaches' quality of life, possible prognosis. We are so thankful for the support we have received and the kind donations - as this is what has got Peaches this far! Peaches' has been quite a financial commitment for our small rescue. However, we pride ourselves on being an ethical rescue and feel it is only fair to give Peaches' the best possible shot at a good life.
It's true that we can't do this level of care/fundraising for every dog. But Peaches is young, bright and already showing promise and we are hopeful for her recovery. Treatment could completely resolve her symptoms and send the disease into remission. Peaches could live (somewhat) normally.
HOW CAN YOU HELP PEACHES?
In order to be able to provide her medical care, we need to be able to afford it - Donating to Peaches fund is helping to save her life!
We have been able to cut costs by importing the vials in bulk and directly from the USA. Plus our vets are kindly working either at a discounted or donated rate! We appreciate every donation to Peaches already as it's got her this far. Now we have a diagnosis and there is hope for her, we desperately want to be able to offer Peaches a fighting chance at life and fund Peaches through her treatment.
We didn’t set out to take on such a complex and challenging medical case, but feel it’s our responsibility to do what we can for each dog that comes into our care. This may be the biggest financial commitment our charity has ever made. So we need all the help we can get!
To donate directly to the (Westpac) Trust Account:
The New Zealand Chihuahua Rescue
Swift code (for international deposits): WPACNZ2W
*Please also contact us for a receipt and you can receive 33.33% of your donation back from the IRD!
For debit, or credit card options (both international and local) supporters:
- Givealittle: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/helppeachesfund
So far, Peaches’ medical fund has been utilized for:
Thank you: to the team of kind and caring vets who have assisted Peaches to date: The team at Christchurch After Hours Vet Clinic, Dr Karen Valu (Northlands Animal Hospital & Animal Physio), the lovely team at McMaster & Heap, Dr Michelle McMaster, Dr Terryne Loney and Dr Steve Heap. Plus her current treating vets, Dr Tracey Tonkin (Shirley Vet Clinic) in conjunction with Neurologist specialist (USA) Dr Nicholas DePompa (of Southeast Veterinary Neurology see: wwwsevneurology.com)
For our much-anticipated 2024 Rescue Dogs Fundraising Calendar. Order yours now - visit our online store!
EVERY purchase from our store helps us continue our good work as the proceeds from our store, enable us to help the rescue dogs nationwide!