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Lisa Nicolello


by Terri Roehlig

Katie was my second mastiff and my husband and I had such high hopes for her. She was a gorgeous apricot with very dark pigment and sweet personality. She hit 160 lbs, 30" at 8 months of age on a low protein, low fat diet!

Katie was 11 months when she first developed hygromas on her elbows; the left much larger than the right. She began limping and I took her to my vet and then sent x-rays to two specialists for their expert opinion. They both agreed it was not the norm for hygromas to cause lameness. Was this an isolated incident? We found out later that things were not as they appeared. Bear in mind, if you will, that Katie was a fully tested bitch. Pre-lim OFAís on hips and elbows, CERF, thyroid and vWD -- all clear and good results.

We tried draining the elbows, but they just refilled with fluid as we anticipated. Reluctantly we opted for surgery on the left elbow and re-drained the right with an added shot of cortisone. About ten days following surgery something strange happened. Katieís lips thickened and pustules formed inside her mouth. We went through another course of antibiotics and my vet said we may need a punch biopsy for pathology.

A few days later her eyes and nose swelled. My vet thought this was possibly an allergic reaction to the sulfa antibiotics which we subsequently discontinued. Katie was given a shot of cortisone and the swelling subsided, but a few days later, much to my horror, her entire head swelled. I swear she looked like a giant Chinese Shar-Pei! It was Sunday, but my vet met with me and gave Katie another shot of cortisone and sent me home with prednisone. He said when we finished the course of pred I might want to prepare myself for the same reaction in which case I should take her to a specialist who was about an hour away. He was now suspecting an auto immune deficiency and he was right.

Due to the timing of this entire incident, with relation to the surgery and in part my ignorance, it was hard to comprehend that the surgery was not the cause of this, but that was the case. Let me interject at this time that if your mastiff pup develops hygromas, leave them alone! They will most likely go away. If your pup has hygromas and is limping, it is probably something else causing the lameness. Consult with your breeders, or the staff of this newsletter, before doing surgery of any kind, unless it is an emergency -- i.e. bloat or a c-section.

When the pred ran out, Katie swelled up once more but this time in the hocks. By the time I got her to the specialist, she could hardly stand up. I was in tears. After $500 worth of testing her diagnosis was "immune-mediated polyarthritis and vasculitis". In laymanís terms, her body was attacking itself causing inflammation of her body joints and inflammation of the blood vessels. Her prognosis was that she may or may not recover. Since this disease was steroid responsive, she would be on pred for an indefinite period of time. I knew my hopes and dreams of showing and breeding my beautiful girl were down the tubes. Now all I wanted was for her to be as comfortable and happy as possible.

So, what caused this?! It was a Lyme vaccine. I was taking Katie and my other mastiff bitch up north for Katieís one year reunion and at the time didnít know any better. They both got the vaccines. I know now about Dr. Doddís conservative approach to vaccinations and will never use the Lyme vaccine again. My other mastiff had no reaction to the Lyme but Katie was predisposed to an immune deficiency, an inherited trait, hence her untimely demise.

In the year that followed, I would consult with more specialists and attend seminars trying desperately to save my girl. When we finally put Katie down she was only two and a half years old. She had become incontinent due to the pred and my attempts to wean her off it, and replace the pred with homeopathic remedies, was unsuccessful. She was miserable and it was pointless to prolong her agony. She did not look good. It was heartbreaking, but the humane thing to do for her sake. May God bless her and keep her.

The Lyme vaccine was administered when she was eleven months. Thirteen days later when she received the follow up shot of Lyme, the hygromas had already begun. The lameness, as it turns out, was due to the Lyme disease, not the hygromas. This dog couldnít have had any better care and yet her health declined before my eyes.

The breeder, who had become a good friend went through this with me long distance. She was very concerned and saddened by the entire episode. She offered to replace Katie. There was nothing else she could do. The lesson in all of this is simple; to be aware that this can happen in our breed. Hopefully this will help some of you avoid this same scenario.

The fact that you subscribe to this newsletter puts you a step ahead of so many mastiff owners and breeders. There is so much valuable information made available to you through this source thanks to Lisa, Debora, Sharon and Laurie who care enough to make a difference. Iíd like to personally thank Lisa Nicolello and Debora Jones for their positive influence on my morals concerning our breed and always caring enough to lend an ear or a helping hand.

With regard to this particular subject Iíve shared with you concerning Katie, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


Terri Roehlig
(941) 926-9144

(Thank you Terri, itís no easy thing to write and relive situations like this, but doing so helps all of us to be aware of health problems that can befall our "kids." Knowing these things can help in a situation where we donít know what to do or where to turn.

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