If all goes according to plan, a Filipino dog that was gravely injured when she rushed to save two girls from an oncoming motorcycle should be back home in May.
Kabang, whose upper snout and jaw were severed when she lunged at the motorcycle, arrived in October at the University of California, Davis, William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. She was later diagnosed with cancer and heartworm disease.
The first of Kabang’s two reconstructive surgeries took place March 5, when oral surgeons Boaz Arzi, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, and Frank Verstraete, DrMedVet, Dipl. AVDC, Dipl. ECVS, Dipl. EVDC, removed two upper fourth premolars, repaired a cracked front tooth and rebuilt her missing left eyelid.
"Her vets describe her as the ideal patient,” said Rob Warren, the hospital’s communications and marketing officer. "She’s receptive to everyone, and no matter we put her through, she wags her tail.”
Kabang’s second surgical hurdle, scheduled for around April 1, is expected to close the large wound where her upper snout and jaw used to be and create an artificial nasal passage, making breathing easier. She then will be evaluated for about a month and returned to her owner, Rudy Bunggal, when she is deemed fit.
Kabang’s upper snout and jaw cannot be replaced with prosthetics, her doctors stated, and the surgeries are intended only to improve her quality of life.
Well-wishers often wonder how Kabang manages to eat, Warren said.
"She can eat [mostly wet food] with no problem at all,” he noted. "She’s adapted very well to be able to curl her tongue back into her mouth to scoop food.”
Kabang was horrifically injured in December 2011, but Bunggal, the father of one of the two girls, wasn’t interested in euthanizing the 25-pound mixed-breed canine.
Filipino veterinarian Anton Lim, DVM, aided by his Tzu Chi Foundation and the Philippines-based Animal Welfare Coalition, administered antibiotics to Kabang but was unable to do much else.
In February 2012, Karen Kenngott, a Buffalo, N.Y., critical care nurse, caught wind of Kabang’s ordeal and along with the Animal Welfare Coalition started an Internet fundraising campaign with the goal of sending Kabang to UC Davis for treatment.
The initial $20,000 target was met, but the estimated cost of her treatment skyrocketed once UC Davis veterinarians did hands-on evaluations. That’s because they discovered heartworm disease and a transmissible venereal tumor, both of which had to be treated before the oral and facial surgeries could be attempted.
Her expected six-week stay quickly morphed into an anticipated seven-month visit, during which she endured six rounds of chemotherapy and three heartworm treatments.
As of March 20, Kabang had more than 20,000 "likes” on the Care for Kabang Facebook page and had generated donations from more than 23 countries, Warren stated.
He did not have an estimate of the total treatment cost since her arrival at UC Davis.
"The situation is so fluid that I’m not even able to ballpark it,” he said.
Kabang’s caregivers will be sad to see her leave, he said.
"She steals everyone’s hearts around here.”