Our staff was heartbroken by the sight of Leo’s condition when he first arrived at the Humane Society of Utah in early 2022. Leo, a four-year-old bully breed mix, was severely malnourished and suffering from what appeared to be extreme allergies, which had led to hair loss and skin infections all over his body and in his ears. As a result of these infections, Leo’s body was covered in swollen red sores, pustules, and scabs. After our medical team assessed him, their number one priority became to help Leo gain weight and clear up his painful skin and ear infections as best they could.
Concerns of refeeding Syndrome
Unfortunately, due to Leo’s severe malnutrition, our medical team had concerns of refeeding syndrome, a severe and potentially fatal condition caused by sudden shifts in blood electrolyte levels. Since food deprivation changes the way one’s body metabolizes nutrients, there can be an abrupt electrolyte change when fat metabolism switches to carbohydrate metabolism in malnourished patients. To prevent this, HSU had to re-introduce food slowly. As a result, Leo’s healing process was prolonged and his energy low, but he made progress.
Due to his severe medical issues, Leo was placed in our foster care program for a longer-than-average stay. His foster guardian and HSU’s Behavior and Training Manager, Anjela Sullenger, said, “He’s settling in with me and tolerating his new regime of taking medicated baths for his skin very well. He has become very affectionate with me and wants me to sit and cuddle with him all day, which is very sweet.”
Leo’s true personality shines through
Anjela brings him to work with her every day to support Leo’s mental and emotional health. At our Pet Resource Center in Murray, Leo follows Anjela everywhere while hanging out at her office. If Anjela has to step out for a minute, Leo patiently waits by her office door for her to return. While at home together, their favorite thing to do is to sit and cuddle on the couch and catch up on Anjela’s favorite TV shows.
Anjela shared, “Leo gets along very well with my two dogs, although he is not interested in playing at the moment and not really up for much exercise. But I have high hopes that he will become more playful as he starts to feel better.”.
HSU’s Resource Center Veterinarian, Dr. Meredith Bleuer, has been part of the team to help Leo recover. She adds, “malnutrition is not only detrimental to metabolic function, but can also lead to many secondary problems such as skin abnormalities, delayed wound healing and major organ dysfunction. It is important to ensure pets receive proper nutrients with a nutritionally balanced diet.”
Worth the Wait
Over the next two months, Leo would require further visits with specialists to help get to the root of his skin issues. While visiting with the dermatologist veterinarians at Blue Pearl, it became apparent that Leo was suffering from an autoimmune skin disease. Luckily, he could make a full recovery with proper medication. While in Anjela’s care, Leo steadily began to gain weight, and his splotchy, scab-filled coat was eventually replaced with soft, velvety fur.
Although Leo’s road to recovery has been long and challenging, our dedicated team, who never gave up, is happy to report that he was adopted on March 26th! He now spends his days cuddling with his new family and doggy friend on the couch. Leo is an excellent reminder that while most transformations don’t happen overnight, they are worth the wait when they finally do – and it’s important never to give up hope.