Facebook’s “On This Day” feature can sometimes be good for a laugh when you look back and see how much you might have changed in the past few years, both in appearance and personality. However, sometimes it can bring back some very unpleasant memories. Over Christmas, I was getting some of those unpleasant memories rehashed.
Two years ago, end-of-December 2013, Inara became incredibly ill. It started slowly, with some vomiting, slight lethargy, and reluctance to eat. Before this time, Inara had refused a meal once in her life. Once. And she’d had a partial impaction. She doesn’t miss meals. So I ended up taking Inara to the e-vet one night after she’d refused a meal and vomited several times. Because she’s had a partial impaction before, I immediately asked about x-rays. The e-vet said bloodwork would be a better use of my money (even though I clearly said up front that money was no issue). The e-vet didn’t feel anything during palpations, and the bloodwork was only slightly “off,” so he figured it was just an upset tummy and we got sent home with a lot of meds and recommendations to feed Pepcid with meals for a while.
For several days, she seemed improved a little. She began eating some and vomiting less, and her energy slightly increased. But then she started going downhill again. I was in a tough spot at this point because I was in between vets. So I went to a vet that has a great reputation and accepts walk-in clients. I requested a specific vet who works there but didn’t get her. So the vet walks into the room and because it was a new person, Inara got perkier and wigglier. Not anywhere near her normal “OMG there’s a new person who is going to touch me so I’m going to snap in half by wriggling so hard” self, but energetic enough that most people would think she was fine. So not only did I have to explain Inara’s symptoms, but also try to convince this vet that this was not full energy by Inara standards. I again suggested x-rays and/or bloodwork and was blown off. We left with more antibiotics.
Once again, Inara was fine for several days and then she started drinking excessively. She is a dog that will happily stay in bed for 24 hours if I don’t drag her out to go pee, but now she was waking me up 1-2 times a night to race her outside to pee. Worried about a UTI from all her antibiotics, we went back to the walk-in vet. Once again, I requested a specific vet but we got the same vet from last time. Inara is generally between 50-52 lbs, but at this point she had lost 4 lbs in 10 days. Almost 10% of her body weight in 10 days. Once again, no x-rays or bloodwork, even though I requested them. Just more antibiotics in case she had a UTI, even though her urine specimen showed no issues.
Just a few days later we were back at the walk-in vet. Inara’s vomiting had returned and she was obviously in pain, hunched, lethargic, and not eating at all. Her face had sunk in. I was a wreck. I was watching my dog die and couldn’t get answers. This time at the vet, I got the owner. He took one glance at Inara, listened to my (crying) story and pleas for help, and said, “I’m not going to waste any time looking at her. She needs to see a specialist.” We got an appointment with the internal medicine specialist the following day.
At this point, Inara was down 6 pounds in 2 1/2 weeks. More than 10% of her body weight was gone. As a dog that carries minimal extra body fat, she was gaunt. The internal medicine specialist had zero bedside manner, but he listened, took notes, looked at Inara’s prior vet records, and truly seemed to believe this was serious. He said he wanted to do a x-rays or an ultrasound and then do any necessary surgery. I had to leave Inara there, with this specialist I’d butted heads with, honestly not knowing if I would see Inara alive again. It was truly serious. Thank god my best friend had gone with me because I was a sobbing mess walking out that door, walking away from my dog.
I waited by my phone, answering calls of people checking on me but holding my breath to see the specialist’s number pop up. And then it did. The specialist said he’d seen something on the x-rays in Inara’s abdomen, and he wasn’t sure what it was. He wanted to try getting it out via endoscopy instead of opening her up. He said he would call after the endoscopy, or after the surgery if the endoscope couldn’t get it out. There are no words to describe that wait – was Inara in surgery? Had he gotten the item? Was she going to make it? I burst into tears when the phone rang, not knowing if I was going to get good news or bad news.
It was good. The specialist had managed to get a large piece of sharp metal out of Inara’s stomach via endoscope, no surgery necessary. I could pick her up in a couple hours.
From our best guesses, Inara had ingested a piece of lead shot from her venison. Though all of her venison is bow-killed, this deer must have been shot before and survived. So she had a large piece of lead bouncing around her belly for about three weeks.
After that was removed, Inara had an amazingly quick recovery. Within a couple days she was back to being bouncy and playful and happy to eat. Her bloodwork follow-ups showed she did have some lead poisoning going on, so that was monitored and never caused her any further issues.
So what’s the point of me telling this story? Simply this – be an advocate for your dog. It kills me to know that Inara’s issues could have been resolved that first night when I took her to the e-vet if I had just pushed harder for x-rays. But it’s normal for us to quiet down and not push when the professionals are telling us something isn’t necessary. So many people complain about the price of veterinary care that often vets do everything they can to keep from running tests that might be “unnecessary.” Even though at every vet appointment I emphasized I didn’t care about cost, I just wanted answers, I was still told, “no, that’s not necessary yet. Let’s wait and see.” Only it WAS necessary. Inara nearly died. My dog nearly DIED because I didn’t push hard enough when I was blown off.
Obviously it is important that you find a vet you trust and establish a good working relationship before something arises. But you also need to do your own homework and listen to your gut. Nobody knows your dog like you do. You are the only one who knows all those little quirks, or different degrees of excitement or tiredness that might indicate an issue. Don’t be afraid to push and demand specific tests. What is more important, the e-vet thinking you’re a nice person, or your dog’s life?