By Peter Fimrite
The cancer that added to the misery of a celebrated canine that lost half her face saving two girls in the Philippines is gone, according to a UC Davis veterinarian, but the unlucky animal’s dog days are far from over.
The muzzle-less mongrel named Kabang is facing a drawn-out series of treatments for the heartworms wriggling around in her arteries. When that is all done, Kabang will be rolled in for the cosmetic surgery she traveled more than 7,000 miles to get.
“There is no evidence of any remaining tumor,” said Gina Davis, the primary care veterinarian at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis. “As far as we know she has been cured of the transmissible venereal tumor.”
Kabang became an unlikely sensation late last year after her snout and upper jaw were sliced off when she reportedly threw herself into the path of a speeding motorcycle just as it was about to hit two young girls crossing a roadway in Zamboanga City.
The lunge, by all accounts, prevented death or serious injury to the daughter and niece of Kabang’s owner, but the motorcycle’s spokes sheared off much of the dog’s face. Word of the “hero dog” spread around the world, and a remarkable grassroots campaign started after photographs of her gruesome injury began to circulate.
Kabang was brought to the veterinary hospital after donations from 20 countries poured in, enough to pay for airfare and treatment. Facebook and Twitter accounts, the website careforkabang.com and pet lovers’ blogs were an integral part of the effort.
It turned out Kabang’s ghastly wound was only part of the problem. Veterinarians found the hound also had heartworm, a parasitic roundworm, spread by mosquitoes, that can cause congestive heart failure. The veterinarians said worms were seen in her pulmonary arteries.
The miracle mutt also was diagnosed with an aggressive sexually transmitted cancer, called progressive venereal tumor. Both ailments are common in tropical and subtropical regions where dogs run loose, veterinarians say.
The four-legged heroine recently completed six weekly intravenous chemotherapy infusions, Davis said. She was given antibiotics and monthly heartworm prevention medication throughout, but full-on treatment to get rid of the worms had to wait until the cancer treatment was finished. She had the first of three powerful arsenic-based heartworm shots Dec. 4, Davis said.
Kabang is now at a nearby medical boarding facility on forced bed rest to prevent the dead worms from circulating in her bloodstream and causing clots. The final two doses of heartworm medicine are planned 24 hours apart in the second week of January.
“It will be one to two months for her to recover from that before she goes in and has the surgery,” Davis said.
The hospital surgeons are planning two or three separate procedures, the first involving dental work, extractions and the covering of exposed roots. After that, the surgeons will try to close the gaping wound and restore whatever nasal functions they can.
“They are not planning to create prosthesis,” Davis said. “What they want to try to do is cover up any exposed tissue because, right now, the bony structures are all exposed directly to the air so there is an increased chance of infection.”
Kabang, who will be sent home in May or June if all goes well, was found as a puppy in a swamp near Zamboanga by 57-year-old Rudy Bunggal. The dog and Bunggal’s daughter, Dina, 11, and niece, Princess, 3, soon were inseparable. Kabang, which means “spotty” in the Visayan language, loved the girls so much that she sacrificed herself to save them from the motorcycle, according to numerous published accounts.
The tail-wagging wonder somehow managed to get pregnant after the accident and her subsequent litter rivaled Drew Barrymore’s recent baby in popularity among the Filipino populace.
The pooch’s promiscuity is one reason surgeons plan to spay Kabang before sending her home. By that time, the bill for her medical treatment is expected to exceed $10,000, a sum that the nurses and doctors at UCD think will be worth it.
“She’s a great, happy little dog, very friendly,” Davis said. “She wags her tail a lot and has become very attached to my veterinary technician, Lisa Sullivan. Overall we are very happy with how she is doing. She has come through everything very well. Her appetite is still good. She’s still bright and happy.”
— Reach Peter Fimrite at firstname.lastname@example.org