Liver Tumor? IMHA? Daphne's Story (Part I)

by Nicole

I'm so thankful to read the stories on this site of others who have been or are currently battling Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA).

My 8.5-year-old golden retriever Daphne was diagnosed with IMHA last week. 

Daphne (8.5) back right

I am so scared that I didn't catch it early enough and should have known from her behavior to bring her in immediately. My other golden Roxy was just diagnosed with a fibrosarcoma in her jaw less than a month ago after surgery and I fear that while I was paying extra attention to her, I missed the early signs in Daphne.

The Monday before Memorial weekend I noticed Daphne was panting a lot, had a decrease in appetite and was lethargic. 

It was hot out and she has never been a super active dog... so we put the air on and didn't think too much else about it for the evening. She also has thyroid problems which she takes meds for and is overweight as a result of the thyroid. We've tried green beans and other veggies to supplement her food and up until this disease hit she was doing really well.

I noticed her stool looked very orange later in the week and brought it in to be tested. The tech called to say everything looked normal.

By Memorial day she has totally stopped eating and I became panicked. 

I brought her to the ER vet who did full blood work and x-rays. She came back into the room after three hours and told me that Daphne had a large mass on her liver and was bleeding internally, thus her pale/yellow appearance/anemia.

She said the tumor could burst at any time and Daphne would die a horrible, painful death so I should consider putting her down right away. 

I left in complete shock and disbelief. I made an appointment at my regular vet the following day to discuss options. She said an ultrasound and exploratory surgery were the only choices and that she would not make it through the surgery in her condition.

I left feeling sick and hopeless and scheduled a doctor to come to my home on Thursday to put Daphne to sleep. She seemed SO sick (and she was, but little did I know it was IMHA and not cancer).

Not once the word IMHA was mentioned from either vet. 

I never thought to look in her mouth at her gums and that kills me because I know I would have researched online and found this disease since she had every symptom!  Instead, I was looking up tumors on the liver and etc.

I woke up on Weds. morning and decided that even if the ultrasound only confirmed what the vets told me, I could not go through with euthanasia unless I knew 100% that I was doing the right thing for her. I got a referral from my vet and immediately got her in for the ultrasound.

2 hours later the specialist came in and said Daphne had no tumors, and that she was fairly certain she had IMHA. 

I have never been so sad and so happy before in my entire life. I had never heard of this disease before. Why had the other two vets never considered this diagnosis? How did they arrive to a conclusion that Daphne had large tumors, that weren't there?

The specialist said her liver was slightly enlarged but that clearly a thorough evaluation hasn't been done.

They diagnosed her with the most common killer of Goldens, cancer of the liver. But blood work clearly indicated a possible immune disorder and anemia regardless of what the x-rays showed (enlarged liver?)

Daphne was immediately started on an IMHA treatment. 

Her level was at 18 so she received a transfusion and is on 30 mg of prednisone twice a day. They also cultured her urine which indicated she also has a UTI so was also put on very strong antibiotics. My poor, poor baby.

After the transfusion, her levels improved. I know she has a long road ahead but I am hopeful we can get her levels back up and thankful they seem to be maintaining for now.

She started showing signs of her old self. Eating well and seems a bit more active.

We are taking it one day at a time but I am just so terrified that this could change at any moment.

To be continued ...

Related articles:Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde: Razzle's Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 1)
Battling IMHA With Integrative Veterinary Medicine (part 2)
IMHA Is Not To Be Taken Lightly: Know The Symptoms
I Am An IMHA Survivor! Dylan's Story

A Word On Second Opinions
Bulging Disc and The Importance Of A Second Opinion
From The Case Files: Hunter's Hip Dysplasia Was Nearly A Death Sentence
Ask A Vet Online: Second Opinion At Your Fingertips
What Doesn't Kill Her Will Make Her Stronger? Koda's Story


  1. Glad Daphne is improving! It's a very scary diagnosis. About 3 years ago, my oldest Jack Russell developed IMHA. Luckily his counts were low enough for him to need a transfusion, but he was on meds for 6 months. I worry about a recurrence all the time.

    1. Hi Dawn, glad your baby recovered! It is a nasty disease. Daphne is actually having complications (blood clots ...); more on that in the next part.

      Would be happy to publish your story also if you're interested.

  2. I've never heard about IMHA before either. I can well imagine how scary that was, but what a relief you were able to catch it before you put her down.

    1. People usually don't hear about it until it happens. So just by reading the story and becoming aware of such things can help people to catch it early. The earlier it is diagnosed and treated the better the prognosis.

  3. Wow. I'm sorry to hear about Daphne's condition. :(
    Also, a little note - people who are reading this article might have to look up what IMHA is; you never said what it was. (I know what it is, though!)
    I hope ... eh ... I read that there are other complications to be written about and shared, but I hope that things are going well/better, and that she makes a recovery.
    I've heard of a number of dogs with this condition lately; it's a little worrying (like maybe there's something environmental triggering predisposed dogs...idk).
    Best of luck. We hope to hear good news in the near future!

    1. Hi JJ, actually I included links within the text and links to related articles at the bottom; the first one explains IMHA; thought was going to be enough, you don't think so?

      Yes, you hear about it more these days. There could be multiple factors involved, reaction to vaccines is one of the things that are believed to cause it, but certainly not the only one.

      There are so many diseases related to the immune system function lately ...


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