Meet Our Survivors

Mykko’s Story ~ “Mykko Makes It!”
By Steve Busalacchi

The odds were not with the seven-year-old miniature pinscher who got into some chocolate and perhaps some other fatty food. “He didn’t want to eat and he was throwing up a lot,” recalls Marlene Koehn, who with her husband Russell, nursed their dog back to health after four surgeries at Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals, which began on New Year’s Eve.

“Mykko’s case was the most severe I’ve seen in 20 years,” says Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, a critical care specialist and owner of MECA, referring to the pancreatitis the dog suffered from. The disease causes inflammation of the pancreas. In cases as extreme as Mykko’s, his only hope was surgery and removal of that tissue.

“The most important factor in his recovery was going to surgery early on,” explains Dr. Lichtenberger. “Doctor [David] Brdecka was the savior on this one,” she added. Modern surgical techniques he employed saved this dog, as Dr. Lichtenberger says even five years ago Mykko would have most certainly died. During the operation, Dr. Brdecka attached tubes to drain the infected pancreatic tissue out of the abdomen.

But prompt and competent ER care is only part of the story. Marlene Koehn is the one who nursed her pet back to good health, attending to his needs every four hours around the clock. She also had to administer nausea shots, as well as deal with his feeding tube. That, in addition to her willingness to continue paying for treatment for a dog so sick he was likely to die. “You look at the dog sitting there so forlorn and you look at my husband  sitting there with tears in his eyes and you’re feeling so bad,” remembers Koehn.  “You have it to give so why not? We took him to the right doctor and the right place and God took care of the rest,” she says. Mykko has fully recovered, but must remain on a restricted diet of food that is less than 6% fat. “I can’t get over the difference of how he is now compared to how he was then,” says Koehn. “He is perfectly back to normal.”

Charlie’s Chronic Kidney Disease

Charlie's Chronic Kidney DiseaseCharlie is a 7 year old male terrier mix that came to MECA in early February for additional care for having chronic kidney disease. Charlie was previously diagnosed and his kidney values were as high as having a BUN of 275, creatinine of 17, phosphorus of 25 and low red blood cell count (anemia) of 22%.

Chronic kidney disease most commonly arises in dogs as they grow older and is a process that cannot be reversed. The kidneys act as filters to get waste out of the body. They also help regulate blood pressure, red blood cell production and electrolyte balance. Dogs with kidney disease may show signs such as increased thirst, increased urination, lethargy, decreased appetite or vomiting. Because chronic kidney disease cannot be reversed, treatment is supportive care to help the kidneys do their job and to help the animals not feel sick.

Charlie was getting fluids under his skin every day and numerous supplements and medications to help his kidney function. Charlie’s kidney disease finally made him sick enough that he did not want to eat. At that time Dr. Lichtenberger recommended hospitalization for IV fluid diuresis, blood pressure control and treatment for his anemia. Charlie stayed at MECA for approximately 72 hours for treatments. During his stay, his loving owner came at least twice daily to give his medications, feedings and loving support!

By the end of Charlie’s stay at MECA his kidney values went to a BUN of 66.4, creatinine of 5, and phosphorus of 8.2. After several treatments his anemia began to improve as well. Even though Charlie has a very challenging disease process, he is currently doing well with dedicated support from his owners and a jump start from the MECA team.

We adopted Olivia from the WI. Humane Society on September 27, 2011. In January of 2012 she presented with Irritable Bowel Disease and her veterinarian referred us to M.E.C.A. for further tests. At that time we only knew she was a very sick kitty, not the exact nature of her illness.

Dr. Christine Venema came to her rescue and after hospitalization, tests and treatment by the very caring and professional staff at M.E.C.A. we still have Olivia with us. We cannot thank the staff enough for the help they have given us. I really don’t know what we would have done without them.

Joyce Willms

Franklin, WI

Olivia Willms – Patient# 16396

Olivia, a 4-year-old calico cat, came to MECA in January of 2012 for evaluation of vomiting, weight loss, and lack of appetite. Lab work that was performed by her regular veterinarian before her arrival at MECA, showed that her blood protein level was low. Severe intestinal disease can lead to leakage of protein from the blood and into the feces through the diseased wall of the intestines. An abdominal ultrasound was performed to examine her gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and liver and gall bladder for evidence of disease that could explain her clinical signs. The walls of her intestines were found to be thicker than normal. Based on this finding, it was suspected that she had inflammation within the walls of her intestines, leading to her vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Olivia was admitted to the hospital, and a feeding tube was placed to allow her to receive liquid nutritional solution.

Olivia then underwent an endoscopy procedure to collect biopsies of her gastrointestinal tract. She was placed under general anesthesia and a scope was inserted into her mouth, down her esophagus, and into her stomach. The inside surface of her GI tract was examined using the scope. A biopsy instrument was then inserted through the scope and used to collect small biopsies of the inside surface of her stomach and her upper small intestine. The scope was also inserted into her colon to collect biopsies of her large intestine. The results of the biopsies showed inflammation, consistent with a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is a condition characterized by inflammation in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. This leads to clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The inflammation is believed to be caused by an overactive immune response that is triggered by certain proteins in food or by bacteria that normally live in the GI tract. It is a common condition in cats. In Olivia’s case, a large number of eosinophils, a special type of white blood cell, were seen intermixed with the inflammation on her biopsies. These cells are seen in the GI tract of patients with food allergies. Based on this finding, it was suspected that Olivia had a food allergy as well as IBD.

IBD is treated with high doses of steroids, which suppress the overactive immune response that causes the inflammation. It is also treated with a hypoallergenic food that consists of proteins that are less likely to trigger an overactive immune response. This type of food is also used to treat a food allergy. Olivia was transitioned to a prescription hypoallergenic diet and was treated with prednisolone, a type of steroid given in the form of a pill. Olivia’s vomiting resolved, her appetite improved, and her protein level returned to normal after she began therapy. She also began to gain weight. Her dosage of prednisolone was slowly decreased over the next seven months and eventually stopped. But patients with IBD can experience relapses even after their disease has been well controlled for months. Olivia’s vomiting and reduced appetite returned two months after her medication was stopped. She was started back on the medication, and she has returned to normal again. She may require lifelong treatment for her condition, but, despite this, she still manages to get into her usual mischief.

Brutus Lord – Patient# 14574

Brutus is a 6-year-old Dachshund came to MECA in April of 2012 with a constellation of clinical signs: vomiting, refusal to eat, fever, coughing, gagging, difficulty breathing, and drooling. To investigate possible causes of this myriad of clinical signs, lab work was performed when he was admitted to the hospital, which showed that his kidney and liver values were elevated. During his physical exam, his lungs sounded harsh. Chest x-rays showed nodules or spots all throughout his lungs, a pattern that is typically seen with either cancer that has spread to the lungs or a fungal infection of the lungs called blastomycosis or “blasto” for short.
​To test Brutus for blasto, a urine sample was submitted to a special laboratory to determine whether the fungus could be detected in the sample. While waiting for the results, Brutus was hospitalized and treated with IV fluids to help his kidneys function as well as medications to reduce nausea and antibiotics. Brutus’s fever resolved and his elevated kidney values decreased with therapy.

Brutus’ test for blasto was positive. Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus called Blastomyces that is usually found in the soil, particularly in the Midwest and around bodies of water. Many dogs inhale the fungus after soil is overturned by digging or excavation, but few become infected. The reason why some patients inhale the fungus and develop a serious infection is unknown. As the fungus multiplies, it often spreads from the respiratory system to other parts of the body, including the bones, skin, brain, and eyes. It can also spread to the reproductive system and the heart. Because it can affect many body systems, many different clinical signs can be seen. Most commonly, patients with blastomycosis demonstrate clinical signs such as coughing, difficulty breathing, weight loss, decreased appetite, and lameness.
When Brutus’ diagnosis was confirmed, he was started on treatment for blasto. Treatment for this infection involves giving an antifungal medication in the form of a pill.

​​ Brutus was discharged from the hospital when his vomiting resolved and his breathing improved. Patients with blastomycosis require treatment for several months and even up to a year in order to completely eliminate the infection. Brutus responded well to antifungal treatment that was continued at home. His clinical signs resolved, and the changes seen on his chest x-rays improved dramatically. Unfortunately, a side effect of the antifungal medication is damage to the liver. On routine lab work that was performed to screen for damage to the liver, Brutus’ liver values were extremely increased. Because of this, the antifungal medication was stopped, and his liver values returned to normal in two weeks’ time. The antifungal medication was started again but a lower dose, and his condition has continued to improve despite this “bump in the road.” Brutus’ urine is checked for the fungus every 4 to 6 weeks. The amount of fungus in his urine has decreased substantially with treatment, though a small amount remains at this time. Brutus will continue to be treated with the antifungal medication until the fungus is completely gone from his urine. He has resumed all of his normal activities and behaviors, including his characteristic feistiness.

Our family vet sent us to the Milwaukee Emergency Room for Animals when Brutus continued running a fever after antibiotic treatment for the fever. His blood tests showed several irregularities. At the ER they discovered he had a fungal infection running wild through his body. He wasn’t eating, he was running a fever, he was a very sick little dog. After 3 days at the ER he was allowed to come home where we shoved all sorts of pills down his throat. He was rechecked biweekly, monthly, and after 8 months, he had fungal amounts equal to the statistical ability of the test to determine those levels. He is still on two meds…one for the fungal infection and one to help his liver come back to where it needs to be.

​We want to thank everyone at MECA, they were knowledgeable and caring. We almost lost our little buddy, but they saved him.

George & Jill Lord

Guinness our 7 year old Schnauzer was in your emergency hospital in September of 2012. He had been having some medical issues since the middle of July. His condition wasn’t improving and our clinic in West Allis suggested we take him to your hospital for another opinion. Guinness was experiencing diarrhea and many bouts of vomiting. Dr. Venema examined Guinness and after many tests which included a scoping into his tummy and a colonoscopy she determined he has Irritable Bowel Disease. I can’t say enough about Dr. Venema she took wonderful care of Guinness. I was sorry to see that she has relocated to Michigan. We keep Guinness on a very strict diet….he loves his prescription Royal Canine Dog Food…we give him hard and soft food for a little variety… but only eats his dog food and does not get any table food. Dr. Venema told us we can manage his disease by following a very strict diet and medication. We finally tapered him off of the prednisone and he’s doing great. We were very pleased with the care Guinness received at your hospital.

Paul & Pat Godich

Guiness Godich – Patient# 19832

Guiness is a 7-year-old Miniature Schnauzer who was seen at MECA in September 2012 for chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. He had been demonstrating these clinical signs for the last 2 months. X-rays of his abdomen and blood work had been performed previously by his regular veterinarian and showed no indication of a cause of his clinical signs.

To collect biopsies of his gastrointestinal tract and to examine the inside surface of his stomach and intestines for evidence of disease, endoscopy was performed. Endoscopy is a scoping procedure that requires general anesthesia in veterinary patients. It involves inserting a scope with a camera into the mouth and down the esophagus to the stomach and into the first part of the intestinal tract. The scope is used to examine the inside surface of the gastrointestinal tract for evidence of disease. A biopsy instrument is inserted through the scope to collect small, superficial biopsies of the inside surface of the stomach and intestines. The biopsies are then examined microscopically for evidence of inflammation, infection, and cancer. The inside surface of Guiness’ stomach and intestines was normal in appearance. However, the biopsies revealed inflammation in the walls of his intestines.

The changes seen on Guiness’ biopsies were consistent with inflammatory bowel disease. This condition is characterized by inflammation in the walls of the stomach and/or intestines. The inflammation is believed to develop as a result of an overactive immune response that is triggered by protein in the diet or bacteria that are normally present in the GI tract. The reason why some patients develop this overactive immune response is unknown. Inflammatory bowel disease is a relatively common condition in dogs and cats. It is treated with immunosuppressive medications to stop the overactive immune response and reduce the inflammation in the gastrointestinal walls. It is also treated with a strict prescription hypoallergenic diet that consists of proteins that are less likely to trigger an overactive immune response.
After the diagnosis was made, Guiness was started on therapy with prednisolone, a steroid that suppresses the immune system. He was also fed a prescription hypoallergenic food. His vomiting resolved initially but then recurred after the dose of his medication was reduced slightly.

​​He was started on a second immunosuppressive medication to better control the inflammation in his intestinal tract and to prevent recurrence of his clinical signs. After adding the second medication, his vomiting and diarrhea have resolved, and he is gaining weight. The doses of his medications will be reduced by small amounts every few weeks so long as his clinical signs remain well controlled.

Gracie Gaetz = Patient# 16721

Gracie is now an adult Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, but when she first came to MECA in February of 2012, she was a 10-week-old puppy. She was adopted from the humane society approximately two weeks prior to being seen at MECA. At the time of adoption, she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection. But her gagging cough and wheezing did not improve despite being treated with three courses of antibiotics.

When she was admitted to MECA, she had a fever, a rapid respiratory rate, and increased breathing effort. Her lungs sounded harsh when listened to with a stethoscope. X-rays of her chest were taken and showed changes consistent with severe pneumonia throughout her lungs. She was treated with IV antibiotics and was placed in an oxygen cage. Gracie’s condition was too unstable to allow samples to be safely collected from her lower airways to confirm her diagnosis. To exclude a fungal, viral, or parasite infection within her lungs, urine, blood, and fecal tests were submitted, and the results were negative. Her ability to breathe comfortably improved with IV antibiotic therapy. After only 24 hours of treatment, her oxygen saturation, which is a measurement of her lungs’ ability to oxygenate her blood, was normal. She was removed from oxygen and sent home with her new family.

Gracie’s owners diligently gave her antibiotics in pill form daily for several weeks. Eventually, Gracie’s cough and difficulty breathing resolved. The dramatic changes seen on her chest x-rays also improved considerably with treatment. Gracie is now happy and healthy and enjoying life in her new home.


As you know, she was one very sick puppy. We had recently adopted her from the Wisconsin Humane Society and she was on medication for an upper resperatory infection. She didn’t seem to be getting better and within a week or so was to the point where she was having trouble breathing. We noticed her tongue was turning blue, so we immediately brought her to your facility where she received the care that was so desperately needed. (A special thanks to Dr. Venema for her additional care.) It was many months of medication and vet visits, but we are happy to say, other than permanent scar tissue damage to her lungs, she is now a very healthy girl. We can’t thank you enough for saving her life. As you can see from her attached before and after pictures, she is a beauty…and a bundle of energy.

Debi Gaetz

Our experience with the ER visit with Meg (Megan) was wonderful. We were seen quickly, and given options of things that we could do about her situation. The doctor and I agreed on the procedure and we proceeded. The people at the clinic were caring for Meg as well as our family. Because Meg was still very young it was even more difficult for us. Although I hope we do not need to return, but if we do I know our “Meg” will be in the best of hands.

Patti Branske & family

Megan Branske – Patient# 16700

When Megan came to MECA in February of 2012, she was a 3-month-old mixed breed puppy who was happy and healthy except for one thing: she swallowed a threaded sewing needle. Her owners saw her ingesting the needle but not soon enough to prevent her from swallowing it.

If a needle is left within the stomach of a dog, it can migrate through the wall of the stomach or it can travel to the intestines by the normal movements of the GI tract. Because a needle is pointed and rigid and the intestinal tract consists of many sharp twists and turns, the likelihood that the needle will penetrate through the wall of the intestines is high. If this happens, bacteria from the intestines can leak through the hole in the intestinal wall and into the abdominal cavity causing an infection. This condition is called septic peritonitis, and it can be life-threatening if left untreated. Treatment requires extensive surgery and involves intensive recovery.

At MECA, a scope was used to remove the sewing needle from Megan’s stomach. She was placed under general anesthesia and a scope with a camera was inserted through her mouth, down her esophagus, and into her stomach. Using the scope, the needle was found lodged in the contents of her stomach. A grasping instrument was inserted through the scope and was guided to the needle. Very carefully, the end of the thread attached to the needle was grasped with the instrument, and the needle was pulled through the esophagus and out of Megan’s mouth. Removing the needle with the scope prevented Megan from having to undergo surgery to remove the needle. Megan recovered from the procedure uneventfully and is hopefully past the stage where puppies think sewing needles are fun to play with.

Sally Marks – Patient# 9930

Sally is a 10-year-old Rottweiler mix who came to MECA to determine the cause of an increased liver value on her blood work. The liver value that was elevated is an enzyme called ALP. This enzyme is produced by the liver cells. It is released into the blood when the liver cells swell because of disease or when a condition blocks the flow of bile out of the liver and gall bladder. Sally was experiencing no clinical signs related to this elevated liver value. Her ALP enzyme had been found to be abnormally high on routine lab work in 2009 and remained high until June of 2012 when she was seen at MECA.

An elevated ALP value in an otherwise healthy dog is a relatively common finding in dogs Sally’s age. Many conditions can cause this liver enzyme to become increased, varying from benign nodules that form in the liver with age to advanced cancer of the liver. As part of her evaluation at MECA, a blood test was performed to determine whether her liver was functioning normally. The test result was normal, indicating that the cause of her increased liver enzyme was not preventing her liver from doing its job. An ultrasound was also performed to examine the structure of her liver and gall bladder in order to determine whether a benign or malignant mass could be responsible for the increased liver value. The liver was normal in appearance. However, a ball of material was seen within her gall bladder. Her gall bladder was also very distended.

​​Based on this finding, Sally was diagnosed with a gall bladder mucocele. A mucocele consists of mucus and bile that has congealed within the gall bladder into a firm ball. This ball of material blocks the flow of bile out of the gall bladder and into the intestine. The reason why mucoceles form is unknown, though it has been linked to certain endocrine diseases. Even though mucoceles are benign balls of material, they can cause serious problems if left untreated. Because the mucocele blocks the flow of bile out of the liver, the gall bladder distends like an over-filled water balloon. This causes pressure on the walls of the gall bladder and can eventually cause the gall bladder to rupture or burst. A ruptured gall bladder leaks bile into the abdomen, which causes inflammation and severe pain. This can be a life-threatening condition. To prevent this from happening to Sally, surgical removal of her gall bladder was recommended.

Sally returned to MECA to undergo surgery. This surgery can be associated with many complications and a relatively high mortality rate. However, Sally’s surgery was performed by an experienced veterinary surgeon, and she experienced no complications. Her entire gall bladder, including the mucocele, was removed and she was discharged the day after surgery. She recovered completely from her surgery and continues to lead a normal life. She enjoys spending her weekends at the lake and playing with her animal housemates and her human owners.

Joe & Sue Marks

We brought our dying little Buster to you and your staff saved him. You facility and staff were outstanding with their knowledge, but what saved Buster was your love.

Jim & Nancy Bernier

Buster Bernier – Patient# 18595

Buster is an 8-year-old Jack Russell Terrier whose road to recovery has included some speed bumps. His journey began in June 2012 when he was seen by his regular veterinarian because his appetite was decreased. Lab work showed that his red blood cell concentration was low, indicating that he was anemic. He was referred to MECA for intensive care. His blood-clotting cells, called platelets, were also low on blood work that was performed when he was admitted to the hospital. Because Buster’s bilirubin level was high, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) was determined to be the cause of his clinical signs. This condition is characterized by destruction of the red blood cells by the immune system.
Bilirubin is a by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells. The platelets are also destroyed by the immune system in some cases. Conditions such as infections or cancer trigger the immune system to destroy the red blood cells and platelets in some patients. Buster underwent a battery of tests for these conditions, and none were found. In most IMHA patients, the reason why the immune system destroys the red blood cells is unknown. During diagnostic testing, fluid was found in Buster’s chest and abdomen. Inflammation of the blood vessels can be associated with IMHA and can lead to leakage of fluid from the vessels and into the chest and abdomen. Buster received a red blood cell transfusion and was treated with IV fluids and medications to suppress the autoimmune response that was destroying his red blood cells and platelets.

​​With treatment, Buster’s red blood cell concentration increased, but his platelet count did not. He was then given an infusion of human immunoglobulins to combat the abnormal immune response that was destroying his blood cells. Following this infusion, his platelet count increased, and he was scheduled for discharge from the hospital. However, he developed more fluid in his chest cavity and under his skin, and his red blood cell concentration and platelet count decreased. After three more days of intensive care, his red blood cell concentration and platelet count rose to safe levels, and the fluid in his chest and abdomen disappeared. He was discharged from the hospital for continued care at home.

Over the next month, his platelet count and red blood cell concentration returned to normal. He resumed his normal activities at home. Because his red blood cell concentration and platelet count remained normal, the dosages of his medications were gradually decreased every month, and one medication was stopped entirely. His disease has remained in remission. Buster has had lab work performed every month to monitor his condition. In October of 2012, Buster’s owner reported that he was drinking an unusually large amount of water and needing to urinate more frequently than normal. His routine lab work revealed that he had developed diabetes mellitus. Buster’s diabetes probably developed as a consequence of genetic and dietary factors. Also, he was being treated with steroids for his immune-mediated anemia. Steroids can prevent the body’s natural insulin from working properly. Buster was started on therapy for his diabetes with long-acting insulin injections given under the skin and a special prescription diet. He and his owners are adjusting well to his new treatments. With careful monitoring, he can live a long, normal life.

Meet Zoey our chiszoo bishon chiwauwa! Zoey just turned two this past summer.

Our family went thru a tragic ordeal when Zoey after she ate rat poisoning.
We took Zoey to the Mecca Emergency Hospital. The staff there took complete care of Zoey’s needs. From a blood transfusion, nasal flush and medication for a month. Our visits with Zoey while she was being treated at Meca Emergency Hospital were caring and comforting to us. This staff kept us informed completely with Zoey’s progress.
We could not believe that a neighbor could be using rat poisioning in a garden to keep critters away. These critters take the rat poisioning in their mouths and carry it back to their nests to eat it. We learned rat poision is irresistable to animals. So, Zoey is in her yard and one of the critters traveled thru dropping some of this rat poisoning. Now our puppy gets it and that’s how we ended up at Meca Emergency Hospital with a puppy at death’s door.

Dewey, Sue, Taylor and Hayden Drews

Thanks so much to Meca for the wonderful care they gave our precious Beau.

​ ​We adopted our Westie Beau in June of 2012 at the age of 11 years old. A few weeks after we adopted him Beau became extremely ill, so we took him to Meca for emergency services. At the time we were so worried that we would lose him because he was so horribly ill and had deteriorated so much. The Meca staff promptly diagnosed him with moderate renal failure and disease. They hospitalized him to stabilize his condition and got him on the right path with medications and a prescription diet for home. He will remain on these meds and diet for life and will continue to be carefully monitored by Meca.

​​The staff also worked with us in understanding his disease and his care. Due to their expert knowledge and compassion, Beau’s quality of life has been restored.

Beau is now a happy boy again! He has gained weight, is active and plays with his toys like a puppy. His appetite is very good and he enjoys riding in the car and family activities. Beau is truly a Meca success story!!

We are eternally grateful to Meca and their staff for saving our Beau’s life and the support they showed my husband and myself throughout this ordeal.

Debbie & Delmar Martin