Bella Donna came to APARN as an owner surrender. The volunteer who picked her up said the living conditions were horrible; the front door was falling off the hinges, there was garbage strewn all over the floor, and the place smelled like a dead and rotting cat. He said it was absolutely the worst filth he had ever seen, and as a former police officer, he had seen a lot.
When she first came to APARN in spring of 2011, Bella Donna was 6 yrs old. Her skin and fur were a mess from untreated food allergies. The skin on her abdomen was elephant grey, thickened and hairless. Her skin with fur was puffy, swollen, and smelled from bacterial and yeast infections. In fact, she was so swollen and puffy that almost everyone who met her asked if she was a pug/sharpei mix!
She also had at least one slightly suspicious cyst, which I was to watch for any changes, as pugs are prone to Mast Cell Tumor (MCT) disease. MCTs are a type of skin cancer in dogs, and pugs have become the poster children. She also had luxating patellas, bad hips and degenerative back disease.
Bella Donna came home from the vet with a bag of medications. Her allergies were so severe, she was started on a medication called Atopica. I also put her on grain-free, fish based kibble, to help her start healing from the food allergy aspect. I bought probiotics for her food as well, to give her the best chance possible to heal.
Over the new few days as we learned about her personality, we discovered that Bella Donna had no idea what toys or treats were. Nugget taught her how to play with toys, how to sit for a treat, and also how to graze on grass in the backyard, lol.
What emerged from her personality immediately was how starved for attention she was. Bella Donna adored people. She was well behaved, and loved to sit on a lap. She also enjoyed laying in a dog bed with other pugs, the more the merrier.
After a few months, the bacterial and yeast infections were all gone, as was the swelling, and it was easy to see that Bella Donna was a beautiful purebred pug. It took almost 18 months, but the elephant grey skin finally turned pink and produced fur.
Two years later, a few more suspicious lumps had sprung up. The original had not changed size, but due to the new ones, it was time to get them all checked out. A thorough search was conducted and the masses found were photographed so I could show them to the doctor. Out of the 6 found, only two were not MCTs.
Surgery was scheduled, and afterwards, Bella Donna looked like “Frankenpug.” A few weeks later, the clinic manager was speaking with the Atopica rep and mentioned Bella Donna’s Mast Cell Tumors. The Rep immediately told him she should no longer be on Atopica. When he relayed this information to me, I couldn’t help wonder if the Atopica had caused the cancer; at the very least it had suppressed her immune system so badly that it allowed it to take hold.
A different allergy medication was needed, and Temeril-P was tried. After six months on this medication, the prednisone (the “P”) had continued an assault on her weakened immune system and she developed mange.
Trooper that she is, she came through the mange and is now on Zytec for her allergies. Bella Donna remains one of the sweetest, most attention-seeking pugs I have ever had the pleasure of sharing my home with.