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Molly's mystery fever

Molly's mystery fever

The thermometer indicated she had a significant fever, there was just no clear explanation as to where in her body it was coming from. About every one of her body systems we could evaluate seemed right as rain. After performing physical exams and running bloodwork, we knew none of her major organs were undergoing any serious injury, so we began a treatment trial with broad-spectrum antibiotics to help Molly fight off a presumptive infection. She would do quite well while on her meds, but shortly after, she would run out, her fever would return, and she would start feeling sick again. We saw her a few times over a several-month period, and each time it was the same ... she would take one step forward while on antibiotics, and two steps back when they wore off.

Molly was a young dog, spayed, and she had tested negative for tick diseases. After two relapses following only temporarily successful courses of antibiotics and a worsening condition, it became critical that the source of her infection be identified. Radiographs were taken that revealed fluid accumulating in the abdomen, and the more we palpated her abdomen, the more we became convinced that we could feel an abnormal structure stuck to her body wall in the vicinity of her belly button, and extending up toward her liver. She needed an exploratory surgery to hopefully identify and remove the cause of her illness if she was going to survive.

Upon opening her abdomen during surgery, the source of her fever became apparent. Remnants of the fetal structures responsible for circulating maternal blood in the fetus were still present, but were severely inflamed and infected. At the time an animal is born, there is an opportunity for bacteria to enter the stalk of their umbilical cord and ascend before it dries up and becomes their belly button, and in Molly's case, that is exactly what had happened. Her body was able to wall off and fight the infection keeping it at bay for nearly two years! When good circulation to an area is compromised, as it would be in the remnant of a fetal structure that is supposed to shrink away to nothing shortly after birth, neither the immune system cells nor antibiotics circulating in the bloodstream can adequately reach that area. Unfortunately for Molly, the source of her infection was in one of these such areas, and rather than a simple course of antibiotics, it became a life-threatening condition requiring some rather invasive and aggressive resection of infected tissue within her abdomen.

Molly was doing much better after her surgery, with a normal temperature and appetite right away the next day. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself ... we just need to provide it the opportunity to do so. In most cases of infection, that means simply finding the right drug for the right bug so that the bacterial growth will be slowed long enough for the immune system to clear the infection. But for Molly, providing her body the ability to heal itself meant surgically removing the infected tissue her body's defenses could not penetrate.