From Your Hometown Vet
One in a Million Finding the Answers
Did you know June was Vitiligo Awareness Month? If you’ve never heard of vitiligo, you’re not alone. It is an incredibly rare skin disorder that causes parts of your skin and hair to lose pigment. Vitiligo only affects 1% of the world’s population and can impact animals as well as people. I didn’t know much about vitiligo myself until my dog Lucy was diagnosed with the disease. When my husband, Mike, brought Lucy home six years ago, she was all black with a single white spot in her chest. This was right around the time Mike and I started dating. Jump forward to a couple years ago, I noticed the tip of Lucy’s nose was starting to turn white, and the skin around her lips suddenly became bright pink. Being a veterinarian, I didn’t hesitate to bring Lucy into the clinic and do a biopsy.
neutrophils, a certain type of white blood cell, which makes it harder for me to fight off infections. Only about 1,400 people in the world have neutropenia. Like vitiligo, neutropenia isn’t contagious, but it can be dangerous if
you don’t know you have it. Before I was diagnosed, I used to get sick all the time because my body couldn’t fight off disease. With my neutrophil count as low as it is, I’m really lucky I didn’t end up in the hospital. I lived with neutropenia for 15 years before we realized something was wrong. It took another long, scary year after that to finally get a diagnosis. Today, I’m part of the Severe Chronic Neutropenia International Registry (SCNIR), a group that funds neutropenia research and helps people with neutropenia get diagnosed and get the medication they need. It can be scary to deal with a disease you don’t yet know or understand. I know this from personal experience, which is why I want to share our stories this month. Sometimes it can take awhile before you learn what’s going on inside of you or your pet, but it’s important to have faith. There is an answer somewhere down the road — you just have to keep searching and never be afraid to ask for help.
I was really worried Lucy had a dangerous disease. When the results came back, we were all relieved to hear it was just vitiligo. Doctors aren’t sure what causes vitiligo, but it’s neither painful nor contagious. People and pets with vitiligo just look a little different. Lucy doesn’t seem to mind her new spots, and they inspired us to give her a new nickname: Lula Dots. Lucy isn’t the only member of our family with a rare disease. When my husband was 12, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and three years ago, I was diagnosed with an incredibly rare blood disorder called severe chronic neutropenia. This means my body doesn’t make enough
Lucy doesn’t seem to mind her new spots, and they inspired us to give her a new
nickname: Lula Dots.”
—Dr. Brea Smith
Your Hometown Vet
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