By Marcia Hill Gossard, College of Veterinary Medicine
PULLMAN, Wash. – Kristy Fiorini, a long-time dog lover, had been wanting a corgi ever since she could remember. “My husband isn’t so much of a dog person,” she says “but he gave me the puppy as a surprise because he knew how much I wanted him.”
Fiorini immediately was smitten. It was love at first sight.
Like all puppies, Murray, was full of energy. He loved playing with toys and chasing Kristy daughter’s dog. But at six months old, Murray’s head began tilting to the side. “At first, we thought he had hurt himself playing chase,” she says.
They took him to their local veterinarian who treated him with anti-inflammatories, but Murray didn’t improve. Kristy took Murray back to the veterinarian, who recommend an MRI to see if there was a problem with a disc in Murray’s spine, and she was referred to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “Making the appointment gave me hope,” she says.
After a neurological exam, WSU neurology intern, Dr. Sandy Chen, told Kristy it wasn’t disc problem. Murry had some blindness in one eye and did not appear to feel touch sensations on half of his face. He was also dizzy, which would not have been related to a disc problem in the spine. Something else was going on in his brain to cause his symptoms and the MRI would help them know more.
“It was so emotional,” says Fiorini. “I went in expecting disc surgery, and when she told me there was something going on in his brain, it was even worse news.”
Come to the hospital ASAP
At 7 a.m. the next morning, Kristy dropped Murray off at the veterinary hospital. “They told me that I may not hear from anyone all day,” says Fiorini. She was surprised when she got a call at 1 p.m. “Dr. Chen asked if I could get to the hospital right away,” she says. “I thought the worst.”
They found two abscesses in Murray’s brain and an abnormal pocket of fluid at the base of his brain. “Dr. Chen met me in the parking lot and told me they needed my permission to do a spinal tap,” says Fiorini. “They needed my consent because there was a chance he may not make it.”
Murray spent the night and was scheduled for surgery the next day. Kristy came back in the morning to see him before surgery. Then she waited.
“I sat facing the door where I knew they would come from after the surgery,” she says. “My biggest fear was that they would come out and tell me he didn’t make it.”
WSU neurologist Dr. Hillary Greatting performed surgery on Murray’s brain to remove the infection from the abscesses, which was causing the blindness and lack of feeling in his face. Neither she nor Dr. Chen had ever seen infection that extensive in a dog’s brain.
The day after surgery, however, Murray walked out to greet Kristy.
“He has responded well to treatment of the abscesses,” says Greatting, which also included a strong antibiotic. “His second MRI was improved, but not normal yet. It is a miracle case, but he is not going to be out of the woods for a while.”
During the first weeks of recovery at home, fourth year veterinary student, Hanna Robertson, kept in touch with Kristy daily. Kristy would send updates and videos, so they could monitor how Murray was doing. “It is amazing for a dog to get that kind of care,” she says.
Tilting and uncertainty
Today, Murray, who is just a little over a year old, is feeling better, but because of the fluid pocket at the base of his brain, which he’s likely had since birth, his head still sometimes tilts and loses his balance. “It has been touch-and-go,” says Fiorini. “A lot of improvement, but a lot of uncertainty. But I know we are on the right track.”
After the expenses of the surgery and the medicine Murray needs every month, Fiorini says they were financially tapped. So, they applied for funding through the WSU Good Samaritan Program. They received $900, just a fraction of the costs, but it made all the difference. “Knowing we were able to go back for the follow up and have it financially taken care of helped me sleep,” says Fiorini. “It was literally life-saving.”
Before they can consider a second surgery to remove the fluid, the infection from the abscesses must be completely gone. And the surgery is risky. Kristy is trying to weigh the risk of the surgery, with Murray’s quality of life because she knows he could come through it better, or worse. “His endurance is not there, but he is leading a good life,” she says. “I love this dog so much. I’ll take him as he is.”
And so far, his progress has been even better than expected. “That he is moving in a positive direction is amazing,” says Dr. Greatting. “We are very optimistic that he is doing this well this far out.”
For now, Kristy and Murray are waiting to see how he does before he returns for a follow up visit at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. “That place. It is much more that a veterinary visit,” she says. “They are an amazing group of people from start to finish.”
Learn more about how you can support the WSU Good Samaritan Fund at https://hospital.vetmed.wsu.edu/good-sam/.
- Marcia Hill Gossard, senior writer, College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-8242, firstname.lastname@example.org