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New year looks bright for bullterrier with new kidney

Zansi, at left, has a suppressed immune system but is doing well, thanks to owner Jennifer O’Brien Pheiffer and littermate Toni.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Zansi, at left, has a suppressed immune system but is doing well, thanks to owner Jennifer O’Brien Pheiffer and littermate Toni.

Zansi, the bullterrier who was the recipient of a rare doggie kidney transplant in September, is thriving.

Jennifer O'Brien Pheiffer, the St. Petersburg pet owner who spent over $20,000 to save the life of the puppy she got from South Africa, is pleased with the dog's progress. After the surgery, Zansi weighed about 32 pounds. She is now 47.8 pounds.

"The doctors don't want her to gain any more weight,'' O'Brien said.

"She is making up for lost time. She's become very vocal and you know she's feeling better.''

O'Brien held a gathering in Zansi's honor on Nov. 15.

"I had a party to celebrate her good health. Because we went through such a journey, I invited friends and family members and her doctors. There were so many people who were so supportive through this whole ordeal and we wanted to say thank you and I knew that Zansi wanted to say thank you also. . . .We had about 65, 70 people during the course of the evening,'' said O'Brien, an artist and designer who once chaired what was then the St. Petersburg Planning and Historic Preservation Commission.

The donor of Zansi's new kidney was her sister, Toni, whom O'Brien also owns. The dogs were born on June 30, 2007. Signs of Zansi's illness appeared in the spring. After seeking other medical help, O'Brien took the dog to Dr. Shawna Green at Medicine River Animal Hospital in Pinellas Park. Green helped to stabilize the dog. The vet and O'Brien then found out about the University of Florida's Veterinary Medical Center's hemodialysis program. Dr. Carsten Bandt, clinical assistant professor and emergency and critical care specialist at the UF center, put Zansi on dialysis for six weeks to prepare her for the transplant. The surgery took place on Sept. 4 at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.

Toni is doing well and Zansi now gets monthly checkups and is receiving antirejection medicine.

"Right now, her medication is quite expensive and it's a little bit difficult in these economic times,'' O'Brien said of the $700-a-month cost.

"You do what you have to do,'' she said.

The dog must also be protected from infection.

"Her immune system is completely suppressed, so she is susceptible to any possible infection. She can't be around any shelter animals. I wanted to adopt a rescue dog, but I can't do that. We can't really go to dog parks,'' O'Brien said.

"We have to be cautious, but it is a very small price to pay for all of our good news.''

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2284.

New year looks bright for bullterrier with new kidney 12/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 10:54am]
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