Monday, December 01, 2008

This is getting old

A couple of weeks ago I was out at work (I'm a home health therapist, so I drive around all day) and Ronnie was working from home as he usually does. This is a GREAT arrangement for many reasons - not the least of which is that his office is 50 miles away. And needless to say, the dogs LOVE having him there all day.

Anyway, I had overslept that morning so had rushed out and left Ronnie to feed the dogs their breakfast. He sort of forgot - I'm really surprised that they let him forget, but they do cut us some slack sometimes - and didn't feed them until nearly noon. Which is no biggie, since with training classes and other things the dog's meals often are delayed until late morning, or late evening.

But I got a phone call: "Teddy isn't feeling well. He didn't want to eat his breakfast, and now he's just laying around." I was immediately worried, since normally Teddy is a chow hound. I asked him to take Teddy's temp, and call me back. It was a little high, so Teddy obviously needed to go to the vet ASAP. Unfortunately Ronnie had an important conference call soon, so even though I was across town it would be me taking him to the vet that day. Which actually is fine, since although Ronnie is an absolutely sterling human being in every way, he's a bit deficient in the Giving of Details department. I can usually drag the relevant information out of him when he returns from a vet appointment or training class or whatever, but it can be exhausting.

I get home, and find a very, very sad Great Dane. Teddy wasn't just laying around, he was seriously lame. Not putting any weight at all on his left front leg, and actually seemed to be favoring his right hind leg too. He didn't want to eat anything, even treats. He was very depressed, and panting, and obviously in pain. I'm thinking that this must be a serious injury, or infection. I didn't waste much time trying to palpate his leg, we just put him in my car and I took off for my vet.

Once there, things seemed a bit more mysterious. Although he was still very, very lame they couldn't find anything wrong on palpation. His neck and back also seemed fine. Since they couldn't feel anything amiss, we decided to hold off on X-rays. Especially since it would take several films to cover his whole shoulder assembly/front leg/foot. His blood work was OK except he did have a mildly elevated white count.

So, we opted to treat the symptoms: antibiotics (Cipro) and pain meds (Metacam). I normally do NOT give my dogs antibiotics "just in case", and my vet doesn't normally recommend them. But with the fever and white count and pain, we felt it was justified. They gave him a shot of Metacam to get the ball rolling, and we headed for home.

By then the rush hour traffic was starting to pick up, and since my vet is a good distance away from us it took nearly an hour to get home and Teddy was actually feeling better by then. He was willing to eat some hamburger, and I gave him the Cipro. Later that evening he was feeling MUCH better, although still rather lame but he ate a good dinner and seemed to be more himself.

The next morning, he had a swollen paw on that left front leg. A light bulb dawned... over the past couple of years, Kinsey has twice turned up with a fat foot, apparently the victim of some sort of stinging insect. And Topper (Teddy's sister) had the same thing happen last year. In each of those instances, the dog was fairly lame but not really distressed. I gave them Benadryl for a few days, and they were fine. I think maybe we've got some sort of ground dwelling bees or something. I've never seen a wound, or stinger or anything like that - they just present with a swollen paw. It's always been a front foot, which makes me suspect that the dog may be pawing at something when it gets stung.

So apparently that was what had happened to Teddy... but unlike his mom and sister, he quite obviously thought he was going to CURL UP AND DIE after getting his foot stung. What a wuss!! I still don't know why he'd have the elevated white count and/or temp with the bee sting, but I added Benadryl to his Cipro and Metacam. After that second day he didn't need the Metacam anymore, and I'm happy to say that the big baby recovered completely in just a couple of days.

Fast forward to this morning. I didn't have any patients lined up to see because I'd originally had a private agility lesson scheduled for this morning with Topper, but it was too windy. Way too windy, as in "it could blow the dog off of the dogwalk" windy. So I was out running a few errands, and got a call from Ronnie. This time it was Topper who was sick. WTF? She'd been fine earlier, had eaten a good breakfast and been her usual bouncy self.

I came home and found her acting like she was in severe pain - she was trembling and panting, arch-backed, reluctant to move. Not exactly lame, but very stiff. Danes can get a life threatening emergency condition called Bloat, or more correctly Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (click here for an article on GDV - must read stuff especially if you have a large, deep chested dog) (here is a useful chart of the cascade of events that occurs during GDV) and that is ALWAYS in the back of my mind. But this didn't really look like bloat to me, she was too alert. She wasn't trying to vomit, in fact she was willing to eat treats. If I thought she had been bloating, I would have taken her to a 24 hour clinic near us for emergency treatment since it takes over half an hour to get to my regular vet. With bloat, every minute counts. But I have learned to trust my instincts, and I figured we could safely take the time to get to my regular vet.

When we get there, she's still very uncomfortable. And very clingy - some dogs get clingy when they don't feel well, and she is DEFINITELY one of those. Not just leaning against me, but practically wrapping around me. Wanting to be in physical contact all the time. Usually when she's at the vet, she is so busy greeting everyone I could probably leave her and she wouldn't notice, not for a while anyway. But not today.

As with Teddy, there didn't seem to be much wrong clinically. Although she was obviously tense and painful, nothing really stood out. Her color was fine, her lab work was "perfect". So we decided to take some X-rays to rule out a really atypical bloat, or an equally atypical pyometra. She had her last season in early August, so although technically an intact bitch can develop this life-threatening uterine infection at any time, it's most common about 2 months after they are in season.

So we X-ray her, and what we see is: Poop! Her colon was full of poop, with some gas behind it.

Hmmm. I have been cutting back on her food lately, since she was getting a little pudgy. And it's very possible that as a result she's been getting a little too much bone and not enough meat which can certainly be constipating. She's kind of picky, and the ONLY kind of bones she'll eat are pork neck bones. Which is fine, that's a great source of calcium - but they aren't really the "meaty" bones you want to emphasize with a raw diet. So I do feed her extra meat, usually with some veggies when she gets the pork necks. But maybe I haven't been giving her enough meat.

Anywho, they gave her an enema (outside!!) and she passed a pretty decent amount of feces. With a raw diet, the dog doesn't produce a lot of poop anyway since the food is so darn digestible. Just in case, we gave her a second enema and then I walked her (and walked her, and walked her, and trotted her, and practiced recalls, and walked her some more) but she didn't pass anything else. She seemed to feel a LOT better. Not totally normal, but better.

So we came home. I am REALLY HOPING that this is just another case of a very wussie Great Dane overreacting to a relatively minor problem.

But she's still looking pretty sad:

Sorry for the crappy photo.

I suck at taking pics with my camera phone, and was too lazy to go get the Canon.

She ate a good dinner (no bones, and I added some canned pumpkin for some extra fiber) but still is not acting quite right. Unlike Teddy, she's not bouncing back. She doesn't want to go outside, although she will when we insist. But when she's out there all she does is just stand there looking pathetic.

She's much better than she was earlier today, not panting or trembling. But something ain't quite right.

This is all she wants to do:

So say a little prayer for my baby girl, will ya? I'll keep ya'll posted.

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