If all goes according to plan, a Filipino dog who was gravely injured when she rushed to save two girls from an oncoming motorcycle should be back home in May.
Kabang’s upper snout and jaw were severed when she lunged at the motorcycle in December 2011, but owner Rudy Bunggal, the father of one of the two girls, wasn’t interested in euthanizing the 25-pound mixed-breed canine hero.
Filipino veterinarian Anton Lim, aided by his Tzu Chi Foundation and the Philippines-based Animal Welfare Coalition, administered antibiotics to Kabang but was unable to do much else to help her.
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.
After meeting the initial $20,000 target, Kabang arrived in October at the University of California, Davis, William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Also diagnosed with cancer and heartworm disease, the estimated cost of her treatment skyrocketed once UC Davis veterinarians did hands-on evaluations. The heartworm disease and a transmissible venereal tumor both 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.
The first of Kabang’s two reconstructive surgeries took place March 5, when oral surgeons Boaz Ari and Frank Verstraete removed two upper fourth premolars, repaired a cracked front tooth and rebuilt her missing left eyelid. “Her vets describe her as the ideal patient,” says 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 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 says. “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.”
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,” says Warren. Kabang’s caregivers will be sad to see her leave. “She steals everyone’s hearts around here.”
Kabang’s Road to Survival
- December 2011: 2-year-old Kabang is injured in Zamboanga City, Philippines, and undergoes lifesaving treatment from veterinarian Anton Lim.
- February 2012: Karen Kenngott spots Internet story, begins grassroots aid campaign and contacts University of California, Davis.
- Spring 2012: Kenngott secures sponsorships from Global Animal Transport, Philippine Airlines and Hallmark Inn of Davis, Calif.
- Oct. 8, 2012: Kabang arrives in United States, escorted by Dr. Lim.
- Oct. 11, 2012: UC Davis specialists conduct preliminary examination. “We are pleased with what we discovered today,” Dr. Frank Verstraete says. “We are confident we can improve her condition going forward.”
- Oct. 16, 2012: Doctors reveal that Kabang has heartworm disease and a transmissible venereal tumor.
- Oct. 23, 2012: Kabang receives first chemotherapy treatment.
- Nov. 27, 2012: Sixth and last round of chemotherapy is completed.
- Dec. 4, 2012: Doctors report no trace of tumor, so heartworm treatment begins.
- Jan. 9-10: Kabang receives second and third heartwMarch 5orm treatment injections.
- Feb. 21: Tests indicate successful heartworm treatment. Kabang is deemed healthy enough for surgery.
- Feb. 22: Kabang is spayed.
- March 5: CT scan confirms extent of damage to Kabang’s face and dental region. Oral surgeons remove two upper fourth premolar teeth and reconstruct left eyelid. Kabang rests in preparation for final facial surgery.