Orion's Blood Work
As many of you may have heard, we are now in Alaska, but our trip was
plagued by some problems. First and foremost are the issues we are having
To backtrack and recap some of what has already occurred - Orion has been
having a tremendous season in harness - One of the best of his career
actually. On the 7th of January he went with the rest of the Race dogs for
our 'pre Alaska' vet checks. Orion checked out fine, as expected - however
his blood work showed a very low platelet level. We drew a second sample,
which also showed a low platelet level. Tannis (our vet) was concerned that
we were getting a false reading, as Orion showed no signs of being at all
sick, and we scheduled a follow up test for Saturday. Saturday's sample
again showed the same abnormality. We drew blood again on Monday morning
and I left with steroids and antibiotics that I was to put him on once I
talked to the vet from the road. I spoke to the vet on Tuesday and it was
decided to start Orion on the medication.
Thursday evening when we 'dropped' the dogs Orion had a stool that was very
dark and 'tarry' looking - a sign that there is bleeding somewhere, however
his appetite and attitude remained high. Stools where the same on Friday
morning and night. We arrived in Wasilla on Friday afternoon and I made
arrangements to visit our vet here, the Big Lake - Susistna Vet Clinic on
When Dr. Baetsle saw Orion at first of Saturday and was going over the
records that were faxed up from the Westlock Clinic, he was very optimistic
about Orion's condition and the possibility of him still making my Iditarod
team. Once he drew a blood sample though, all that changed. The blood work
showed that Orion's blood values had basically bottomed out. His hemocrit
level, a value that mushers watch quite closely on their dogs had dropped
from the mid 40's to 17. Dr. Baetsle said that 20 was critical. More tests,
which answered none of our questions, were run. Orion went home on a whack
of medication and we hoped for the best.
Sunday was the first day Orion seemed to be showing signs of his condition
He was fairly depressed and obviously tired. A check of his blood at the
clinic showed his levels continuing to fall - now down to 14. We ended up
running a transfusion of Oxyglobin - a chemical blood replacement and
adjusting his medication.
Monday (yesterday) Orion was VERY depressed and down. For the first time,
he turned down food, but at least continued to drink. The bright spot was
that the blood seemed to be out of his stool.
This morning I ran him into the vet again. The good news is that his
platelet level has raised somewhat, however his hemocrit level is now down
to 9.5 and he is running a fever of 104. We again adjusted his medication
and he came home with me.
His prognosis is very poor. We are pretty much at a dead end for the
treatment we can do on him. There are some tests to help us determine what
is killing him, but they are risky and they won't allow us to help him
anymore then what we are, so I'm hesitant to do them.
What does he have - we have no clue. It might be bone marrow cancer, but it
might not be. Whatever it is, it really doesn't matter, as the symptoms are
what are now killing him. His body is, basically, rejecting and destroying
it's own red cells.
To say I'm devastated is really an understatement. Two weeks ago this hard
driving, fun loving leader was blazing up the trails and now he is on the
verge of death. I was not at all prepared for this.
Orion is a finisher of Iditarod, Beargrease, Race to the Sky, Grand Portage
Passage, Klondike 300, Knik 200 and more. He is my dear friend and a very
loved companion - if you are at all inclined - prayers are very appreciated.