A Cautionary Tail: Matilda’s Story


The files at Animal Medical Center are filled with cases that are both interesting and relevant to every pet owner. Matilda’s case helps to answer the phone call that asks “can I just get medications and not see a doctor?”

Matilda, a six year-old Lab rescue, passed on her morning meal the day before Thanksgiving.  Not big deal given a dog’s passion to chew on dead animals baking in the afternoon sun, snack on poop dropped in the pine straw by the neighbor’s cat or rustle up grub that has fermented in the kitchen trash.  Bottom line – my tummy is upset because I have no more common sense than a bottle of IHOP syrup.  Pet owners refer to this as STUPID while medical types call it dietary indiscretion.

Matilda was fortunate because she was also a tad late for her annual visit too, so her people, Merrill and John, brought her to us to update her medical needs and investigate why Matilda walked by her bowl of kibble that morning.  Perfect.

Upon examination, a treasure of clues clarified that something more than “stupid” was in play.   Matilda’s gums were pale and sprinkled with a collection of pinpoint sized red dots (petechiae).  Nickel sized bruises were also scattered along her belly.  A blood chemistries, complete blood count, clotting profile and tick titers were ordered without hesitation after a brief conversation with Merrill and John.  All of the tests were urgently needed as the types of bruising we were seeing are strong suggestions that the body is unable to form a clot.  That’s bad news.

So, in 30 minutes, Matilda went from a dog that merely balked at a meal to a “very sick dog.”  The causes of an animal bleeding out include rat poisons, an assortment of nastiness transmitted by ticks and chronic diseases (cancer not excluded).  The battery of tests revealed that Matilda, in addition to being moderately anemic, had no platelets!  Without platelets, a necessity for clot formation, the blood just keeps on flowing.  Point of fact; the puncture site where we had drawn blood from Matilda continued to ooze.

A critical care specialist was consulted and she confirmed both; that Matilda was fortunate that her ‘mom’ thought enough of one missed meal and that the dog would need hospitalization.  Two blood transfusions and four days of constant intensive care kept Matilda alive through the weekend.

Matilda’s diagnosis was Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMT). In 75% of these cases the platelets in the body are recognized as foreign and destroyed in circulation, for no known reason.

Matilda was given a chance to live for reasons we do know that started and ended with her loving parents.

One reason is a trusting relationship between Vet and pet owner.  We work together to implement a diagnostic or treatment plan that places the animal first, always.

Secondly, the specialists in our town are a wealth of information for both me and your pets.  And every specialist in this town stops their day to share knowledge, offer insight or provide care no matter what they are doing, when we need them.  This is a pretty special benefit for our clients.

And most importantly – there’s you.  Matilda lost her battle, but not before John and Merrill gave her hope through their prompt attention and willingness to see it to the end.

Next time you call your Vet and ask, without the benefit of seeing the patient, if we think your pet needs to be seen…think Matilda.

There is a fine line between dietary indiscretion and death.

Matilda will be missed by all whose lives she touched.


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