It was late in January 2023, when a severely neglected male Springer was found as a stray by the Gaston County, N.C., Shelter. He was held there and assessed while arrangements were made for ESRA to take over his care within the next week after his stray hold had expired. He has aptly been named Gaston after those who originally found him.
At first sight, no one was quite sure what they were dealing with. One thing was obvious, and it was that Gaston has a severely broken left rear limb. While the leg is grossly malformed, he didn’t seem to exhibit much pain upon exam or movement of the limb. The bone also has evidence of some healing at the ends, indicating that this injury/break may have occurred quite some time ago. It is possible that the accompanying nerve damage is what might actually be helping him avoid feeling the pain of this severe break.
Poor Gaston was covered in heavy matting, flea-infested, and had oozing ears and discharge in both eyes. The shelter originally wasn’t even sure if he was neutered or not because the matting was so severe that it was hard to tell. It couldn’t be confirmed until after he was bathed and shaven under sedation. It was obvious that this boy was in quite a bit of discomfort as he cried and whimpered during his caregiver’s initial clean-up to help rid him of the heavy, twisted matting that was causing him so much pain.
One look at Gaston clearly shows that he has endured a great deal of misfortune. While originally thought to be just a few years old, it is now estimated that Gaston is a senior in the nine- to eleven-year-old range. He is also deaf, which is likely the result of years of chronic ear infections. What we didn’t know about were the other underlying health conditions he might have. Unfortunately, a routine heartworm test revealed that Gaston is also heartworm positive and will need to undergo treatment to rid him of these deadly parasites. An X-ray revealed what turned out to be a fatty mass in his abdomen. Additionally, an ultrasound showed that his kidneys and adrenal glands are somewhat abnormal. Bloodwork also revealed a few additional areas of concern with abnormal markers. He is also being treated with medication for a high protein count in his urine and will undergo testing for possible Cushing’s Disease.
While this poor boy has a long way to go, our first course of action is to get him through heartworm treatment. The process is lengthy and will take a few months to complete. A series of injections that can be quite painful will kill the adult worms and their larvae. While the body naturally absorbs the remnants of the dead parasites through small blood vessels in the lungs, Gaston must be kept very quiet and calm. Bursts of activity can be deadly while the heart is undergoing treatment for this very serious (and preventable) condition.
Upon successful completion of heartworm treatment, we will next prepare Gaston for the amputation of the useless limb. The leg cannot be saved at this point, and he will feel so much better once he is ridden of this albatross that is currently weighing him down.
While Gaston’s story is certainly one that hints at years of neglect, we want everyone to know that he is now in a wonderful foster home in South Carolina where he is feeling much better and is getting all of the care and love he needs. It is our hope that we can help Gaston recover from all of his health issues and go on to live a long and happy life. He is learning to enjoy the simple things in life and enjoys his toys and rolling around outside each morning in the pine straw. His foster family is using hand signals to better communicate with “Monsieur Gaston” who is very willing to please. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for this darling boy.
Gaston will be available for adoption down the road after he is medically cleared. If you think you might be interested in Gaston, the first step in our adoption process is to complete our Online Adoption Application.
We thank you for your support of Gaston and other dogs with special needs that ESRA has committed to caring for.
Since our initial post, Gaston has had a great deal of veterinary care but he has not had his amputation just yet. He had an abdominal ultrasound to check on a mass in the abdomen that was noted on his X-ray by the orthopedic surgeon. The mass was simply a lipoma, a collection of fat cells. However, an ultrasound did find enlarged adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. After considering his symptoms of drinking excessive amounts water and leaking diluted urine, he tested positive for Cushing’s Disease. The lab recheck showed that his medication dose is just right.
Gaston also began taking a blood pressure medication to help lower the protein loss from his kidneys. He had his blood pressure checked at the vet and then we rechecked the protein in his urine. That retesting showed drastic improvements, and he is tolerating both medications very well.
With the kidneys and adrenal issues treated, he should be able to regain muscle strength for his future amputation. Also, now that he is in better shape medically, he will heal better from surgery.
But before he can have his needed surgery, he will complete heartworm treatment. He recently received his first injection. It is important for dogs to remain quiet during treatment to prevent complications. Fortunately, Gaston is a pretty chill guy so his foster parents are not having any trouble keeping him quiet. He remains joyful and gentle with his stuffed animals.