As we near the last few days of September, we also reach the last few hours of what has been an unseasonably sweltering month. Having a heat with humidex value of about 38 degrees celcius has not only the trees confused (to leaf,or not to leaf – that is the question?!?), but it also has my cardigans wondering why I’ve been ignoring them. The thunderstorm this evening should shake Mother Nature back to her senses and return us to our regular 16-23 temps.
While we didn’t have ‘real’ dog days of summer since it pretty much rained most of July and August, the past several months have had my actual doggies on my mind more than usual.
On June 1, I brought my lil’ Hershey’s Kiss, Sasha, to the vet for her annual vaccines. It was a strange evening at the clinic: it was bustling with people and pets, the vet was late on account of having to assist with an emergency paw amputation, and then there were the orphaned groundhog babies (about 5 weeks old) that were brought in by a rescue service. When they asked me if I wanted to see something really cute, I couldn’t resist… and then, when the vet tried to get me to bring them home with me and care for them until they were a bit older, it took every ounce of willpower to stand firm and say no and return to the raison d’etre of my visit – vaccines. In all the years I’ve had her, Sasha has never once had a reaction to any type of vaccine. This changed.
About half an hour after returning from the clinic, I poured a glass of vino tinto and started preparing supper. Sip sip sip. Suddenly, I noticed her pacing back and forth, like she couldn’t get comfortable. Sip sip. Then she started panting. Sip? Then her forehead transformed into what I can only describe as the forehead of a furry baby dragon – in retrospect, very cute, but at that time, a waving flag that got me tossing the wine in the sink, giving her two Benadryl, and dialling for a cab to take us to (since my clinic was closed by then) the emergency hospital.
It took us about half an hour to get there, but it seemed to be so much longer. When we arrived, I explained all the details to the front desk assistant and he said someone would take care of her right away. By the time they called her over for a weighing, the wine + empty stomach combo was starting to hit me. I was feeling like such a horrible parent that I leaned over to the vet tech and fessed up: “I kinda had some wine before I got here; I wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen since she’s never had a reaction before.” She just kind of smiled at me, in that way that says, “I sure as shit could use a glass of wine right about now, too….” They took her back to see the doctor and then he called me in to see him. He said they gave her a shot of cortisone and wanted to observe her for a while before releasing her. That’s when he shared some interesting information about vaccines. Apparently, given that she was 13, there really was no reason to vaccinate her at all – by that time in her life, she would have acquired enough antibodies to keep her safe for the rest of her days. Also, the more vaccines they get, the more susceptible they are to having a reaction – so he wasn’t surprised that she had never had a reaction before. And then he said something about how, when we vaccinate animals, we don’t give them boosters, we give them the actual vaccine every time – because boosters would be too expensive. This is what causes the problems. At least, that’s what I understood at 11:30 pm, on an empty stomach marinated in Apothic Red, after translating that in my brain from French to English. The end result: no more vaccines for my chocolate chip.
Now, that’s not to say that I’m against vaccines now. BUT, it did prompt me to do some research. And it turns out that: 1) if leptospirosis and rabies are combined, that can cause problems; better to have them a week apart; 2) there’s an annual rabies shot, and there’s a three-year rabies shot; the three-year rabies shot is the one with the higher chances of having a reaction, and it also happens to be the one that my vet uses.
Then it was Henry’s turn. He’s at the age where they recommend doing a geriatric blood profile. Done. Turns out the boy has a thyroid problem. When the vet called me at the office and said that he was probably feeling depressed and lethargic. A sad thought entered my mind: oh no… he’s not clingy because he loves me, he’s clingy because he’s depressed.
So we started him on some thyroid medication. And it turns out that he really does just love me tons. BUT, it turns out that he’s more vocal now. He makes the most adorable sounds when he rushes me to feed him and he basically tells me when he thinks it’s time for us to go to bed.
I wish that could be the end of my ‘trifurcta’ of veterinary experiences this summer, but no.
About a month ago, I took the pups out for their evening walk, and, when they got back in, noticed that there were several drops of blood on the floor by the water bowl. I called each kid over, checked their paws, their gums, the roof of their mouths (sticks can get stuck there) and their gums. Nothing. But when I ran a clean paper towel in their mouth, Sasha’s came back slightly pink. So something was up with her.
I practically put my entire hand down her throat to see if something had gotten stuck at the back of her throat, but I couldn’t feel anything. Then, when she coughed, bits of blood came out. Off to the vet clinic we went.
The vet on-call gave her the once over and told me that he could do x-rays, but that he thought that maybe we could wait and just keep an eye on her overnight. If she was still coughing up blood the next day, x-rays would be the way to go. She was coughing up blood the next morning. I texted my boss and colleague to let them know what was going on and that I would probably not be in at all that day. I make no demands at my office, so when it comes to taking care of my pets, it’s what I’m doing.
The sedative they gave her made her vomit – so I took the opportunity to check for blood. None. That meant that it had to be coming from her lungs. The vet gave her half the dose of what she should take, but it knocked her out completely. As she was recovering and was able to wobble around a bit, I thought it might be good for her to stretch her legs. That’s when the blood started dripping out of her nose. So we set her on the table to have her head/sinuses x-rayed – since they were busy cutting the cojones off of a cat (see below), I donned a lead vest and assisted the vet tech in holding baby girl still.
The following day, I got a call from the vet with the x-ray results, and he asked me: do you or any of your neighbours use rat poison? Except that in French, the words for poison and fish are very similar. So I heard: Do you or any of your neighbours use raw fish? Which doesn’t make sense since the word for ‘raw’ in French is ‘cru’ – but I digress. Damned bilingualism!
Once I copped on, the first thought was: is there a blood test and how fast can we get this get done? Turns out that the rat poison that is often used is an anti-coagulant, and there are anticoagulation tests. Let me just say this here: while I’m not a fan of street/sewer rats and I would lose my shit if ever confronted by one, having ANY animal bleed out is a cruelty beyond any redemption. I can’t fathom how anyone could think that a slow death by hemorrhaging is okay for anything that has a pulse.
I was told to wait and check her gums for paleness and/or petechiae. Wait? What??? Why are we going to WAIT? Apparently, they can easily and quickly remedy the situation with Vitamin K. So, given that he did go to school for this, I trusted him. I picked up a prescription for prednisone and she was better with about two days. Definitely not poison.
The follow-up x-rays were taken last week and the results were mixed – while there was far less inflammation, there did seem to be fluid in her lungs. And I can hear it sometimes when she’s walking – it’s like when someone has a bit of a cold and their breathing sounds a bit ‘wet’. So, tomorrow morning, I’m bringing her in for an ultrasound, and they’ll remove the excess fluid with a needle or whatever and send it off for testing. I’m hoping that it’ll just be a bacterial infection and a week on antibiotics will have her right as rain again. Because the alternative, cancer, is not something I want to think about.