‘Our goal is to get them past Xmas’: puppies fighting for their lives

A Market Rasen woman is determined to raise awareness of a rare genetic disorder which threatens to cut short the lives of her two Border Collie puppies.

Sue Felstead-Solley and her family welcomed cuddly ‘brothers’ Marlow and Rufus into their home this year.

At first, thing seemed fine but Sue soon realised that something was wrong with Marlow. She explained: “I thought to myself they don’t really look like Border Collies as they are really small.

“We took them both into Rasen Vets to have their second jabs and a week later Marlow went downhill.

Rufus and Marlow.Rufus and Marlow.
Rufus and Marlow.

“He couldn’t support his own weight and stand on his back legs. Marlow had a raging temperature so the vets gave him some antibiotics and he came home. He seemed a little bit better and then it just progressed.”

Marlow was referred to Pride Veterinary Centre in Derby for further tests.

Sadly, Sue then received the devastating news that Marlow had tested positive for Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS).

Sue said: “I had never heard of TNS so the vet explained to me that when a dog gets an infection the white blood cells are dispersed from the bone marrow into the blood system and they fight the infection.

The puppies.The puppies.
The puppies.

“With TNS they do not get released and they stay in the bone marrow.

“It is like an immune deficiency problem so whatever infection they pick up, they cannot fight it.

“The only way to treat it is through antibiotics but unfortunately that doesn’t always work. Rufus has also recently become lame and we had him tested too and he came back positive so they are currently both on steroids.

“This is so rare and it has to be that both the parents are carriers of this gene.

“The rest of the litter had to be tested and the parents of the dogs had kept a puppy called Luna and she had to be put down as there was one illness after another. The other three pups who are much bigger are all carriers.

“They can live a normal life but they just shouldn’t breed.

“There is no light at the end of any tunnel - it always ends up with the same outcome which is that they pass on because of an infection or you have them euthanised.

“There is not very much hope - there is nowhere that we can find in the UK that is doing any kind of research.

“We are hoping to set up some kind of charity to get this research carried out and into the big wide world.

“Marlow and Rufus are not from breeders - I am trying to stress this because of the amount of people who blame the breeders

“The family we got the puppies off said that if they had any idea about TNS they would have definitely got the two dogs tested during pregnant so they could have made an educated decision about whether to carry on.

“They knew absolutely nothing about it.

“We are trying to get TNS recognised and eradicated from the breed.

“Obviously, it is too late for our two - they are what they are and we will give them the best little life that we possibly can - however long that is.

“At the moment, our goal is to just get them past Christmas

“We were hoping to get another 12-14 years out of them but unfortunately we are not going to be that lucky - and neither are they.

“I do believe that dogs come to the people they are supposed to come to but I just want people to be more aware of TNS.

“I have got a lot of people finger pointing and judging the family that we got the puppies from.

“They are as devastated as we are - one because we have got two dogs with TNS and two because they have lost their one that they kept.

“It is horrible for everybody.

“It is nobody’s fault - we are keeping in regular contact with the family.

“The family has said they feel so guilty.

“I have told them there is no blame at all here - we are not blaming anybody for anything and I don’t hold any grudges because unfortunately it is something that has happened.

“You can’t explain to somebody what it is like to lose a dog.

“They are a part of the family - all my kids have grown up surrounded by dogs and any time you lose a dog is like losing a member of your family.

“It is sad and heartbreaking when I think about saying goodbye to them in the not so distant future.

“But if I can change something about people’s awareness of TNS with a bit of luck nobody else needs to go through this.”

Laura Jones is a Veterinary Surgeon who initially treated

She explained: “There are genetic conditions that dogs can be tested for before they breed but unfortunately in this case Rufus and Marlow had parents that were carriers and then three of the pups became affected.

“It is a pretty devastating outcome - especially for Sue as she has taken on two of them.

“High dose steroids are designed to help the puppies in regards to TNS but steroids do then decrease their immune system so they are more prone to getting infections.

“They are also more susceptible to bacterial infections so occasionally we may have to put them on antibiotics which also isn’t a good thing because we don’t want to be overusing antibiotics.

“For those puppies, it is the only thing that we can do for them.

“It can obviously vary but the prognosis isn’t great so six months to a year really.

People need to be aware that when they are buying puppies things can go wrong - even when they have been genetically tested there are still things that can go wrong with them unfortunately.

“The only way the family could have known to test was if they knew about TNS.

“I am not surprised that they hadn’t heard of it - as I say it rang a bell in my mind but I couldn’t quite remember what it was.

“Breeders and owners need to really research into things and as vets we can learn from these cases.

“We need more awareness in general of genetic conditions that can go wrong in dogs in the wider community - vets included.

“Sue is so unlucky because it is not awfully common and to have carriers as parents and these affected puppies it is really sad.

“It is an awful thing - you want a puppy for 10 or 20 years and unfortunately Sue will probably not even going to get a year or two out of them.

“Hopefully Border Collie breeders that aren’t aware of TNS will get their dogs tested because it is not a particularly expensive genetic test to do.

“It is just a case of needing to be more aware of TNS.”

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