Thronged by the news media and well-wishers, Kabang, the hero dog from the Philippines, today (June 3) was officially released from the veterinary medical teaching hospital at the University of California, Davis, and cleared to return to her family.
The diminutive shepherd-mix is credited with saving two young girls from an oncoming motorcycle in the Philippines. Struck by the motorcycle in December 2011, Kabang lost her snout and upper jaw and was left with a horrendous gaping wound on her face.
Her remarkable survival captured the attention of the news media in the Philippines and eventually the hearts of hundreds of people around the world, who provided funds through the private organization Care for Kabang for her nearly eight months of treatments.
The dog was brought to UC Davis in October 2012, but university veterinarians discovered that she also had heartworm disease and a type of infectious cancer, known as a transmissible venereal tumor. Treatment for both of these health problems was necessary before dental and surgical procedures could be performed to deal with her facial wound.
A team of UC Davis veterinarians — specializing in oncology; infectious diseases; dental, oral and soft-tissue surgery; internal medicine; and outpatient care — was quickly formed to coordinate Kabang’s multitreatment care. Because of the nature of Kabang’s health problems, each treatment had to be successfully completed before the next began.
“Kabang’s care at the teaching hospital was a great example of the synergistic approach we have toward veterinary medicine at UC Davis,” stated Professor Frank Verstraete, chief of the dentistry and oral surgery service at the School of Veterinary Medicine’s William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
“We were able to treat all of the complications that arose with the best specialists available,” Verstraete said.
Kabang’s heartworm and cancer treatments were successfully completed in February, and the veterinary team determined that the dog was in good health and ready for the dental and facial procedures.
On March 5, veterinary surgeons Verstraete and Boaz Arzi first performed oral surgery to remove two of the dog’s upper teeth and reconstruct one eyelid that had been damaged by the motorcycle. Then they prepared for the maxillofacial surgery to correct the dog’s facial injury.
The nearly five-hour surgery on March 27 closed Kabang’s facial wound with skin flaps that were brought forward from the top and sides of her head. Following that procedure, Verstraete and Arzi collaborated with William Culp, a veterinary soft-tissue surgeon at UC Davis, to reconstruct nasal openings and insert stents in those passages that would allow two new permanent nostrils to form.
“The surgery was long but went just as planned, in large part due to the collaborative nature of Kabang’s veterinary team,” Arzi said.
Because it was not possible to reconstruct Kabang’s snout and a functional upper jaw, the energetic young dog will never look like she did before her accident. However, because the facial wound has been closed, she will be better protected against infection and prepared for an active life when she returns to her family in the Philippines.
“We were extremely pleased with the overall progress Kabang made while at UC Davis,” said Gina Davis, head of outpatient medicine at the veterinary medical teaching hospital and a clinical veterinary professor. “Kabang ideally completed each stage of treatment throughout the nearly eight months she was with us, and it was a pleasure having her as a patient.”
Kabang received her final examination on May 28, completing the vaccinations needed for a health certificate that is required for return to the Philippines. A final test also confirmed that Kabang is free of heartworms and ready to be released from hospital care.
Professor David Wilson, director of the veterinary medical teaching hospital, noted that in dealing with Kabang’s case, it truly did “take a village” — in this case an international village.
“We are so appreciative to Rudy Bunggal and his family in the Philippines for entrusting our veterinary team with their precious dog over these many months,” Wilson said.
“We also want to acknowledge Kabang’s veterinarians Anton Lim and Ed Unson of the Philippines, and Care for Kabang coordinator Karen Kenngott of Buffalo, N.Y., who have both worked tirelessly on behalf of this very special dog,” Wilson said.
He also noted the role that registered veterinary technician Dawn Gillette played in Kabang’s successful recovery. Gillette cared for Kabang at her private animal convalescent facility near Woodland throughout the dog’s months of treatments at UC Davis.
More detailed background information and a timeline chronicling Kabang’s treatments are available at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital website