21 Oct 15

How I saved my dog from Surgery ...

by Nancy E. Hassel, LIPetPlace.com

Why is that pet emergencies always seem to happen on the weekend and at night?  Right?  You always hear about some awful story or you have gone through it yourself when you pet is presenting with an emergency and it’s never on a Tuesday at 10am.  A couple weeks ago, my dog Cody was not himself – lethargic and then started throwing up in the late afternoon (5:30pm on a Saturday) and continued to do so for another hour.  I am not one to rush to an emergency ER vet hospital over a dog throwing up.  But Cody was throwing up a lot and seemed to be in some pain – if you touched his abdomen, which was normal in size, he would tense up and started shaking.  He was not Bloating – just to be clear. (If you don’t know the symptoms of bloat you should – it could save your dog’s life!)

His gums were pink – and he was slightly dehydrated from what I could tell.  But it was the pain that was worrying me.  So at 6:45pm on that Saturday night – we were off to the ER Veterinary Hospital.  Of course when we got there he was wagging his tail very excited to see people – but even through that I could tell he was not feeling well.

In the exam room the vet tech asked me a ton of questions about his symptoms – and I explained that a few days earlier he had grabbed a mouthful of oak tree acorns, (the oblong shaped ones), but that he had passed most of them.  She took all the info and while waiting to get the doctor – Cody threw up again – so much, I didn’t know where all that fluid was coming from. Already worried, this was not helping my worrysome state.

The doctor came in and asked me pretty much the same questions the vet tech did and she suggested x-rays to make sure there was not a blockage.  Which is the reason I was there with him.  I have only had Cody for 5 months at this time and never had a dog that ate acorns – so I wanted them to do an x-ray.  A little while later – they took him to do x-rays and blood work.

After another 1/2 hour or so – the doctor came back with his x-rays:

The doctor said, “this is not good.” I said, “what is that?” I felt my face get hot – this did not look good!  She explained that his intestines were expanded 2 or 3 times their normal size.  I said, “oh that is all gas in there – that is would explain he was farting so much today.”  She nodded.  She explained that the next step would be to have a radiologist look at them to see if he could see any obvious blockage but that they highly suggested surgery in a case like this.  Now of course I want the best for my dog – but I didn’t want him go through surgery.  As she kept explaining it to me and telling me the cost could be anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 grand for the surgery (remember we were at an Emergency ER).  My head was starting to swirl.   Then as she was talking I literally said out loud “WAIT – Wait wait wait.”  I am going to call my regular vet, I have his cell phone and text him the X-rays – do you mind.  The vet said, not at all – please do send it to him.

So panicked I called my vet, at 9:30pm on his cell phone, – rambling to him the situation and he said, ok text me the X-rays.  I did.  He called me back 2 minutes later and said, “do NOT do surgery.”  I said, “I knew you were going to say that!”  He then gave the vet there his suggestion of what to do, keep him overnight, IV, meds, etc.  Which they did.  He said, have them do the x-rays again in the morning and if they do not change then have them do surgery.   In the meantime the radiologist had said they we should do surgery – but the ER vet also sent the x-rays to their surgeon who said she couldn’t see anything specific and she was comfortable with my vets suggestions.

Now mind you this would have been exploratory surgery.  They could not see for sure if any acorns were logged in his intestional track.  Which, I was told exploratory surgery  is common.  Advocating for my dog so he wouldn’t have to go through a possible unnecessary surgery.  You have to be informed and adovcate for your pet – knowing full well I am not a veterinarian – which is why I called my vet for him to look at the x-rays.

So when I left Cody there – the vet said, we will moniter him and if anything changes throughout the night we will call you – I said absolutely.  And they would do a new set of x-rays in the morning.  I left, went home and tried to get some sleep.  My phone did NOT ring.  When I woke up I knew in my gut, not Cody’s gassy one, that he would be ok.

The ER hospital called me around 7:45am to tell me Cody did well during the night and that they did a 2nd set of x-rays and they only looked slightly better.  My panic started to set back in.  I said please email the X-rays so I can look and send them to my vet.  About 1/2 hour later I got the email, expecting the worst:

I literally said, ‘Wow’ outloud when I opened them, only slight better.  Looks a lot better to me and I am not a vet.  So I texted the photo’s to my vet asked him what he thought – and in the meantime, was waiting to hear back from the ER vet again – on what the radiologist and their surgeon said.  They also now quoted me $6,000 to $8,000 grand for the exploratory surgery – I said, “how does that go up $2,000 overnight?”  That was just and estimate.  Then I said, “well if he does need surgery I will not have it done there.” $8,000 for surgery they are not sure if anything is even there – seemed, well crazy to me.  The vet was very nice and said, she completely understood if I wanted to bring him elsewhere – but would I be able to find a vet to do it.  Yes, I am fortunate I am in the pet industry and know a lot of veterinarians.   So with my wheels spinning I started to make a few phone calls and found a vet who was willing to come in and do the surgery at their hospital AND my own vet got back to me and said he would come in (on his day off) if he needed surgery and do it.  How amazing is that?

The hospital was still saying he could need surgery.  I said, “what about the ultrasound that I was told the next step would be (if his xrays were still inconclusive).”  ”We don’t want you to incur the cost of an ultrasound if he needs surgery.”  What?  So I said, “I would rather pay for an ultrasound then Cody have to go through massive invasive surgery if they are still not sure about any blockage.”

Then the radiologist got back and said, he would not suggest surgery.  ”But our surgeon said he would do surgery if it was his dog” – I said, “Well it’s not his dog, so please get the specialist in to do the ultrasound.”  The vet agreed and I went up to the hospital to sign for the ultrasound and waited THREE hours for the specialist to come in (which is not any fault of the ER vet – this guy was on call), but I was pretty pissed off.  I said, last night you guys were pushing for surgery and this guy is taking his sweet time to get here.   (Also saying to the front office staff – I completely understand it’s not their fault – but still why isn’t anyone on staff that can do an ultrasound?)

Finally the ultrasound was done – they called me into the exam room – and guess what it was deteremined that NO surgery was needed there was NO blockage. WOHOOO!!!

Cody had to stay one more night on the IV and meds and I picked him up the next day.   He was diagnosed with: Gastroenteritis which eating those acorns can cause.

It took him about a week and a half to be fully back to normal (digestion wise) but he was basically 90% better the next day.

A few things, one I think the ER vet took very good care of Cody.  I understand the crazy high costs (they have a big overhead to cover) and their suggestions were based on Cody’s xrays and their experience-AND they were willing to work with me on everything I asked them to do, and were fine with me talking to my vet and others. They were also all very polite, nice while dealing with me and loved Cody.  So with that said, I am grateful that we are forunate to have many ER vets on Long Island to take our pets to – on a Saturday night.  If they were not open or nearby – I am not sure what I would have done – Cody would for sure have been sicker and in a lot of pain waiting through the night to go to his own vet on a Sunday.

  • But what I will say – whether your a new pet owner or seasoned pet owner, in the pet industry or not – is ASK a lot of questions, Get 2nd or 3rd opinions if you can.
  • Are there other options available for your pet?
  • Have your own vet’s cell phone # handy (develop a good relationship with your vet so you can call him/her in the case of an emergency)
  • Be your pets advocate. Always.
  • Even though our emotions can take over in these cases – stop yourself from being completely overwhelmed and THINK!  (If I let my emotions handle the situation…it probably would have not turned out this way)
  • Become more informed about your pets health, take a pet 1st aid and CPR class – you never know how that knowledge will help you.

And of course every situation is different – and I knew Cody was not bloating – in that kind of emergency – life saving surgery is an absolute – there is no other option if your dog is bloating.

Oh yea, and don’t let your dog eat acorns and other odd stuff.  I am hoping Cody’s acron (doggie crack) obession is just puppyhood problems.  We’ll see – he has learned leave and DROP it much better now – but he is not giving any opportunity to eat any acorns. Sheesh, silly adorable boy!

Comments are closed.