Saturday, October 02, 2010
How I almost killed my dog
Monday evening, when I arrived home from work, I found Betsy shivering in her crate. Surprised, I turned on the furnace and fed her, a meal she soon threw up. As the evening progressed, it became obvious that she was really sick. By bedtime, I was on the Internet, scaring myself half to death about what might be ailing her. Finally, I took her to the emergency vet clinic, arriving just before midnight.
Now, I am very happy that our town has an emergency vet clinic and I realize that their rates are going to be higher than normal, but jeesh. My regular vet charges $29 for a daytime visit, while the emergency clinic charges $100, $125 if it is after midnight. The other charges also run about three times what my regular vet charges. Knowing this, I was reluctant to let them do much of anything besides examine Betsy. I just wanted to make sure she would be okay until morning, when I would take her to her regular vet.
About two hours and $200 later, Betsy and I headed home. She had been hydrated and tested for a few things, but she had no fever, no funny lumps. She had politely thrown up on their floor, so they were able to see that she was vomiting only dog food. A rectal exam showed no diarrhea or blood. They also gave her a shot for the nausea, so at least I could safely let her sleep on the bed with me. And sleep we did, as we were both exhausted after all that.
Tuesday morning she was still shivering (although not cold) and not interested in eating. She was also favoring the leg that had been operated on years before, when she blew out her ACL. By the time we arrived at the vet, she could not walk at all. The exam did not reveal anything obvious, so we started in on the tests, all of which came back normal, except the one for pancreatitis. Bingo.
The vet gave me the pancreatitis lecture: Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, and is very painful (hence, the shivering). Some breeds of dogs, like schnauzers, are susceptible to pancreatitis; also dogs that are on certain medications, like prednisone, which is true for Betsy. Pancreatitis also runs the gamut, from dogs who have one episode to those that die from it. And a flare up usually follows a high fat meal.
Saturday night I had cooked oven fried chicken. Betsy considers it her job to lick plates and pans clean. I had poured out the grease from the pan, but there was enough left that I had wondered if Betsy would get diarrhea from it. I had given the pan to her anyway. Mea culpa.
They hydrated Betsy again, gave us some antibiotics and anti-nausea pills, and suggested an interim diet low in fat and protein, like rice and chicken breast or fat-free cottage cheese. And no more prednisone for a while. As I forked over another $200, the receptionist asked when doctor wanted a recheck. He hadn't said, and only later did I consider the possibility that he thought Betsy was not going to make it.
But she did. I tricked her into drinking a lot of water by flavoring it with baby cereal or chicken broth (fat-free, no msg, low sodium). I fed her little meals of half rice and half chicken or cottage cheese. I baked her some low-fat whole wheat treats. Wednesday morning she was able to walk again, although she was obviously still in pain. Now it is Saturday, and while she still has some discomfort after meals, she is vastly improved. And last night she finally pooped, after having not done so since Monday night.
I have owned dogs most of my adult life. Most of those dogs could - and did - eat just about anything, including one that ate a whole head of cabbage right out of the garden. Betsy does not have the best conformation or the strongest constitution, which has led to some new experiences for me as a dog owner. And this is just one more. Too bad they almost all involve a lot of money. For a "free" dog from the local shelter, she certainly has been expensive to care for.
But who could resist that sweet face?