Gibbs – Clearwater, FL

ESRA Special Needs Springer

ESRA #2015-723 FL
Age: 6
Gender: Male
Color: Black and white

Gibbs was pulled from a Florida shelter just before Christmas in 2015 but now three months later we find we need to play "catch-up," designating him a member of our Special Needs Program. We knew he was coming to ESRA neutered and microchipped already. He was also free of heartworm and other parasites. And although he was bringing with him a few typical issues like ear infections, "hot spots" and the need for a good dental cleaning, we weren't overly concerned at the time about any undue expense warranted for his basic veterinary care. Once he got a thorough exam from our ESRA vet, however, more serious medical needs began to unfold and we need to ask our ESRA friends for support to help us cover his mounting medical bills.

Upon closer inspection, the dermatitis — "hot spots" — on his face looked more like a road rash; it was scabby and "weepy" from his ears to his eyes and down toward his mouth. And a very large suspicious mass discovered on his back near his right shoulder when aspirated yielded questionable results which clearly indicated the need for further observation. It was determined that Gibbs should stay a few days in the vet's care to get a good head start on further diagnosing and attacking these problems.

The suspicious "mass" on Gibbs' back began to cause trouble right away. He developed a fever and the area on his back swelled up so much that he looked bloated. The skin around the mass ultimately ruptured, expelling "nasty, smelly, just plain gross gunk" from the site. The good news was that the mass, rather than being a possibly malignant tumor, turned out to be an infection, stemming more than likely from some type of earlier injury which had since closed up. The not-so-good news was that, after the site drained completely, surgery was required to debride the area and make sure all unhealthy necrotic tissue was removed. Twenty stitches later and armed with pain killers and antibiotics to keep the infection at bay, Gibbs finally was cleared to go home to his foster family.

Watching Gibbs carefully as the surgical site continued to drain, his foster mom noticed that he began to limp on his left rear leg. Not too badly at first, but after a couple of days he couldn't walk on his own and the joints in his rear right leg and both front legs were swollen to the size of golf balls! If that wasn't enough, she began to suspect that Gibbs had come down with a case of kennel cough, so off they went back to visit the vet!

The cause for the limp was serious — a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left rear leg. And the cough wasn't kennel cough at all — Gibbs had contracted pneumonia in the middle sections of both lungs and was beginning to cough up blood. The swelling in his joints couldn't be diagnosed without the aid of an orthopedic specialist doing a "joint tap" to aspirate and analyze a fluid sample. Gibbs had to be sedated for the quick but painful joint tap procedure and Foster Mom had another anxious wait for lab results hoping to hear that nothing malignant was suspected as the root cause for the painful swelling of the joints.

Good news again — the joint tap results indicated not cancer but Polyarthropathy! In laymen's terms, that is inflammatory arthritis in four or more multiple joints at the same time. It is usually associated with autoimmune conditions suggesting that the inflammation is caused by an invasion of white cells that belong to the immune system from the blood into the joints. Irritating substances are released into the joints causing swelling and pain. It is a very rapidly developing process, very different from common arthritis which comes on slowly to damage and cause degeneration of the cartilage in the joints.

Gibbs was sent back home with a long list of medicines to help combat the joint pain as well as to continue to fight off the pneumonia and any other recurring infection. He will be on the meds for the foreseeable future. As soon as he is strong enough and the pneumonia has cleared up, Gibbs will undergo the surgical repair of his ACL rupture.

Meanwhile, Gibbs has proven to be a typical stoic Springer and a very good patient. Despite the acute pain, he never complains when his legs are touched. And he considers all those medicines he is given daily are treats because he gets them "wrapped" in coconut oil! With time we expect Gibbs to make a complete recovery. For now he is our new poster boy for the good ESRA can do for a Springer with special needs. He will thank everyone who steps up to help us!

UPDATE 3/5/16: Checking to see how Gibbs was doing so we can keep his cheerleading squad up to date, Foster Mom reported a little setback. Gibbs had another issue with fluid building up in one of his joints so the vet upped his prednisone. He goes in next week for a checkup and hopefully schedule his surgery.

UPDATE 3/14/16: Last week Gibbs saw his regular vet and a specialist for his cruciate ligament repair. The specialist doesn't feel Gibbs is a candidate for repair at this time as he is too sick with the immune-mediated polyarthritis. Gibbs' right front leg is extremely painful for him and is in worse condition than the ligament tear. His exam was very thorough with Gibbs giving clear signs of pain and discomfort in his joints. The doctor was surprised that Gibbs deals with the constant pain as well as he does. He feels we need to get Gibbs to an Internal Medicine Specialist to devise a protocol designed to relieve as much of his pain as possible and hopefully get this under control. In addition to the vet commenting that this was a long-term expensive ride, he didn't offer Gibbs' foster mom a very optimistic outlook for improvement in Gibbs' condition.

UPDATE 4/10/16: Gibbs and Foster Mom met Dr. Oswald, the recommended Internal Medicine Specialist, last week. The focus on Gibbs' treatment continues to be managing his polyarthritis and skin infections, rather than dealing with the ACL tear. Because Gibbs is beginning to show signs of steroid-related side effects, the vet has recommended a schedule for regulating Gibbs' medicine regimen, by starting to taper the daily dose of Prednisone and introducing the immunosuppressant drug Atopia. Pain-alleviating meds like Tramadol will continue to be given as needed. And Gibbs will see Dr. Oswald again in two weeks to measure the clinical progress.

As suggested after examinations by his earlier vet, Gibbs will need to be on maintenance doses of medicine for the long term, coupled with routine check-ups with the vet to see if the current regimen needs to be tweaked. The word "cure" may not be in Gibbs' vocabulary any time soon, but the words "love" and "better life" are there for sure.

UPDATE 6/20/16: This poor boy just doesn’t catch a break. After meeting and greeting at the ESRA picnic at Fort DeSoto, walking to the dog beach, and swimming (all of which should have been fine), Gibbs’ right hock and right carpus swelled. The hock was the most obvious (see picture) because it was the size of a lemon. While Dr. Oswald, the vet, was on vacation out of the country, we emailed information and pictures back and forth and decided to stop giving the Atopica medication. When Dr. Oswald returned, Gibbs had a follow-up and it was recommended that Dr. Oakes, the same vet that operated on Special Needs Lily, see him for a third opinion. Upon examining Gibbs, reading his file, and talking with his foster mom, we were back to square one.

Dr. Oakes felt that what was going on didn’t make sense. The swelling in the hock doesn’t appear to cause any pain when it is manipulated. The swelling in the carpus is definitely sore. The strange thing is that the problem is only affecting the joints on Gibbs' left side, and no lymph nodes are swollen. So we decided to start by taking x-rays of the swollen joints and the torn cruciate, as well as getting a fluid tap of the swollen joints. The x-rays showed a fractured ulna of the left leg. We have no idea how long it has been there, but it is not a cause for concern. The right hock was a bit of a puzzle. The bone seems to be away from the joint and has abnormal growth. We are not sure what that is indicative of, but it is strange. The fluid from both joints was very nasty and cloudy. Dr. Oakes felt it best to send the x-rays off to a radiologist for reading and to send the fluid off to pathology.

The radiologist confirmed chronic polyarthritis, severe joint disease, and possible underlying infection, and he suggested a biopsy of the joint and bone. The cruciate leg is the best of the three x-rayed. The lab came back with definite immune-mediated issues (polyarthritis), possible fungal infection, or cancer. Dr. Oakes doesn’t feel cancer is an issue, as there would be definite markers for that.

We agreed with Dr. Oakes' suggestion to start Gibbs on doxycycline to see if that helps to improve the swelling. After the joint tap, the swelling in both legs did improve. After a follow-up visit we may and put him on leflunomide and wean him off the prednisone.

Taking walks is really not a help for Gibbs, but he loves to swim, so he gets into the pool at his foster home and swims around. This is the best exercise for him.


Update 3/8/17: When nothing was making any difference in Gibbs’ condition from a medical standpoint, his foster mom decided to take Gibbs off all medications and start him on a vegetarian diet. The thought process was to limit the amount and kind of protein to see if, perhaps, that could be causing an issue with his swollen joints. We were/are trying anything to find a "remedy" for his arthritis, and it appears to be working, as both joints have had a marked reduction in swelling and discomfort.

Gibbs previously hadn't shown "normal" signs of pain, which has always amazed Dr. Oakes, so when he was showing signs of more discomfort in his right rear leg, it was decided to proceed with surgery to repair his CCL (cranial cruciate ligament). On Sept. 28, 2016, Gibbs went in for surgery and, like all things Gibbs, it wasn't as it appeared. Not only was the cruciate ligament torn, but so was his meniscus. There is no cartilage in his knee and there was a tumor in the area the size of a smashed ping-pong ball. Previous X-rays had never revealed any of that. Gibbs stayed overnight and came home the next morning like nothing had happened. He was on meds for pain and antibiotics hoping his immune system wouldn't flare up as a result of the surgery and cause Gibbs any additional problems.

Within a week, swelling appeared on the upper part of his leg. As the swelling progressed to the size of a closed fist, and the sight of the surgery was bright red, Gibbs was taken in for further evaluation. It was discovered to be a very large seroma (an accumulation of fluid build-up), and it had to be drained. Additionally, a cast was put on his leg to try to keep the swelling down. Dr. Oakes was perplexed at the size of the seroma and changed the antibiotic just to make sure we covered everything and was thankful it wasn't a hematoma (internal bruising and/or a collection of blood surrounding the blood vessels under the skin). All we could do was watch and hope that it didn't have to be drained again. Thankfully the incisions healed very well, and Gibbs started to use his leg again.

After a couple of weeks, it was noticed that he wasn't using that leg as much, but only to balance when he was standing. He had been taken him off all meds (including his pain meds) as they didn't seem to be helping him. One evening while having his leg massaged, his foster mom noticed "crunching" noises coming from his knee, so on Nov. 22, Gibbs saw Dr. Oakes once again. While his knee was being manipulated up and down, back and forth, Gibbs did not react nor show any pain. There was concern that his knee was coming out of the socket because of the way his leg appeared, but our worries were dismissed because everything was right where it was supposed to be. After telling Dr. Oakes that Gibbs is more active, running after lizards, jumping up into the flower beds, catching mice and seems more alert and happy, we decided not to do injections into his knee or any more surgery, because whatever underlying "issue" he has may cause his body to reject anything foreign put into it, and, at best cause more swelling of joints or even worse, death. It was discussed that perhaps a leg brace was a good option for him for stability and protection. While this can be expense, and, if not done correctly, can result in sores on his leg, a consultation with an Orthopedic specialist will be considered to see if it is even an option for this special boy.

Gibbs' left leg continues to improve and he puts more weight on it every day. The joints on the right side have stabilized and don't seem to cause him any problems. There is always a chance he will have flare ups, but those could be treated. Gibbs would do best in a one story home with no stairs to climb, as stairs will aggravate his joints. He is cleared for walks; not long walks but a good stroll. Perhaps if he regains total weight bearing on his left rear leg, longer walks could be tolerated. Gibbs does need help getting in and out of cars depending on how high off the ground they are. He doesn't ask for a much, just love from his humans.

Gibbs and his Foster Mom want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has donated and sent prayers and good thoughts for his healing. While we believe he is a fantastic and special dog, Dr. Oakes repeatedly claims what a GREAT dog he is! He can't believe his tolerance for pain and says that, medically, he is a mystery. He also believes that Gibbs deserves every chance at having a good life and will make someone a very loyal companion one day.



Lori Hallesy  
Ray & Monica Smith In memory of sweet Colby
Carol Barnhart In memory of Vixen, Queen of Bradford Manor
Merrie Corbett In memory of Max, a foster gone too soon
Sandra Dvergsdal In memory of Sir Doobie and Mazzi
Karin Goffinet In honor of Jackson & Moose thriving despite special needs
Mary Weerts In memory of Bella
Keith Dicken In memory of My wonderful girl Alex and boys Conner and Nicky D
James MacLuckey In memory of My Sweet Girl Angel
Maggie Ford In honor of Lori-Lynn Clayton... and, her sweet girl Molly.
Cindy Schaefer-Munz In memory of Fletcher and in honor of Chauncey
Rebecca Thompson In memory of Cisco, Freddie and Gunner
Victoria Polce In memory of My three sweet springer babies Arco. Patrick, & Jenny
Terri Lambing  
Carolyn Molloy  
Lee & Judith Lemsky  
Liz Wortley In memory of Mickey, the Wonder Springer, 12-14-15
Cary Branthwaite  
Barb Armour In memory of springer Gerry Armour and in honour of spouse, Mike Armour
Jeff Wright In memory of Clifton Parker
Parker Harms In memory of my dad, who all dogs loved, and who loved all dogs
Judie Lemsky In memory of our Calloway
Lois And Ken Bil In memory of Stash, and in honor of Rufus.
Victoria PolceIn memory of my three sweet Springer babies, Arco, Patrick, and Jenny
Carolyn MolloyIn memory of our first ESRA Springer, Luke
Andrea BerkeleyIn memory of Rosamond
Nita WatsonIn honor of Terri Lambing's Olivia
Elizabeth EarleIn memory of Buster Earle
Ronda MooreIn memory of Mom
Ed EganIm memory of Bosco, Winston, Mylo and Caesar
AnonymousIn memory of Rocky
Isabel SheeterIn memory of Sampson Sheeter
Kathi Sweeney In memory of all Springers, past and present
AnonymousIn memory of Harley and in honor of Texas Sporting Breed Rescue
Sheri LeiderIn memory of Blaze
Janet KoehnkeThanks for all your time and loving care of Gibbs and Bailey. I wish them a speedy recovery.
Anita Howard In memory of all our friends at the Rainbow Bridge
Karen RasmussenIn memory of Rufus
Wendy Everett
Rachel Penning In memory of Frankie Roy
Lynda Nanney In memory of Clyde, Bree, Murry, Megan and Britt
Rosemary Kaiser
Kathleen Engberg
Emily Pike
Cap Horning
Barbara ArmourIn memory of Gerry and Mike Armour
Christi CooperIn honor of Harry and Flo
Kathie Ford-GreenIn memory of Cookie, Patch, Bailey and Grace, ESRA fosters
Rhonda GrovesIn memory of Tuggy and Lizzie
Suzanne Knight
Angela Kindzia
Ronda VolkmanIn memory of Daisy
Linda ParkerIn memory of Molly, Micah, Bailey and Billy
Linda ProutyIn memory of Sasz
Rene PizzoIn honor of Zippie who also needed a TPLO and is doing great now
Jim and Heather DaddioIn honor of ESRA foster parents and volunteers
Bill and Mary Waters In memory of Molly Bolt
Ruth OlsonIn memory of Morgan Kyle
Jenny BoucherIn memory of Jake, who was once like Gibbs
Erin KileyIn memory of Touchdown
Debra Sidman In memory of Gibson, Cassidy, Jake
Janet and Denny BurkenpasIn memory of Mandy
Sheri LeiderIn honor of Riley
Susan ZukerIn memory of Tom Maher
Kim Matthews In honor of Charlene Keyser – super foster mom and ESRA road warrior
Keith Dicken In memory of Sir Nicholas Bluff, my black and white Springer son
Dan Barrett in memory of our babies, Mabel and Abby
Victoria Carr In memory of Molly and George Carr
Diane Nagel
Monica Smith In honor of all ESRA Foster Moms and Dads
Terry Brye In honor of all the wonderful ESRA volunteers … especially in Florida