We had a late night visit to the emergency vet last night/this morning. The E-Vet is conveniently located about an hour away from us. It’s a very poor and inhumane system, IMO.
The dog showed signs of pain and unhappiness around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, when she didn’t take a bedtime treat, then winced and cried a couple of times while hanging out with us on the bed, as is her custom (the hanging out on our bed before she goes to hers, which is the sofa in the family room — not the wincing and crying). We thought maybe something was awry with her tummy, as she seemed to gag a couple of times earlier in the day, which is unusual for her. When she went from looking a little hangdog to actually being in pain, over the course of 45 mins or so, we knew we needed to get help for her. We called the e-vet, hurriedly dressed again, and loaded her into the Jeep around 10:30. I sat in the back with her, and we drove as fast as possible, through a few red lights (after stopping first and checking for traffic), on icy, bumpy, dark — and thankfully, mostly deserted — streets. I felt like we drove a long, long way, as the dog winced or cried every few minutes.
Once at the vet, she was checked immediately for bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus — a sort of stomach-flipping that can occur in large-chested dogs, especially those who bolt their food and drink a lot of water afterwards. (We had another dog who survived this life-threatening condition thanks to emergency surgery.) Our dog was back with us in the small, overheated waiting room in two minutes when they found no signs of bloat, and we sat, along with three other couples, all dog owners (though no other canines in evidence), and a woman with a cat in a crate, as some hideous TV show blared. Apparently there had been quite a run on the e-vet that evening. One couple had come in at 8:30 and their dog wasn’t seen for two hours. They were there until after midnight; their dog, a 9-yr-old female English setter, ended up staying overnight.
We waited almost an hour to be seen, at around 12:20, the last people left in the room. (We had long since turned off the TV.) From what we could gather, there had been two deaths there that night, with a few more very sick dogs sedated in the back room, waiting to be transfered to their regular vet offices at 8 a.m., when the emergency vet closes every non-holiday weekday. This necessity for transfer is another inhumane aspect of this particular system, as we have found when we transported our sick, frail, and recovering-from-surgery dogs from the e-vet to the regular vet over the same roads, roughly the same distance. Animals least capable of enduring being loaded into and out of crates and vehicles, repositioned, and bounced along the road must nonetheless endure it.
The vet who saw us was tired, and very gentle with the dog. While we’d been waiting to see him, we had started to wonder if perhaps something in the dog’s neck was hurting her, as her movements and our touching there seemed to elicit the most pain, though not reliably. The vet started with that premise, having found no distention in her belly earlier. He touched her head, face, shoulders, limbs, and neck, and occasionally she would cry or twinge. He put his face into hers, asked her to stay still and not react to his touching by moving another part of her body, so he could isolate the place that hurt. When he did, she screamed, opening her mouth and uttering a guttural cry that seemed to go on for days. Then she did it again, and again, leaning into him, her mouth level with his face, while he wasn’t touching her at all. She never tried to bite and in fact wagged her little stump of a tail at him and leaned in close to him immediately after he’d elicited her cries. When the screaming had subsided, he moved her shoulder and limbs and found no problems there.
The two choices for diagnosis seem to be a compacted disc in the neck (C1, C2, C3, or C4, I’m guessing, after studying the canine anatomical model in the exam room) or a very pulled muscle (he didn’t say so, but maybe something like a pinched nerve in people?). Based on her lack of neurological symptoms and her ease with his movement of her front limbs, he diagnosed a muscle strain. He weighed her (55 lbs.), then gave her an intramuscular injection of either the NSAID painkiller (Metacam) or the narcotic (Buprenex) and a sub-cutaneous shot of the other. We have some liquid Metacam to give her each night.
We left the e-vet after 1 a.m., but almost turned back when she started panting hard and quick. We called the vet, who told us that he wasn’t concerned about it, as the panting could be a result of the Buprenex hitting her system and/or of the pain she felt. The panting was much worse, though, than the panting she had done in the vet office. We stopped for gas not far from the vet to buy us some time to decide what to do, go home or turn back. The panting didn’t subside, but I bought some water in case she needed it, and we kept on going towards home, wondering if we were doing the right thing. We were both so tired that it felt difficult to make good decisions. At about 1:45, the panting lessened and she lay down on the seat. We got home a little before 2, carried her in and upstairs, arranged a soft makeshift bed area for her, which we gated in so she wouldn’t try to get on our bed or go down stairs, and hoped for the best.
She slept. We slept. From 2 until 7, we all slept.
Now we’ve been up for almost three hours and she’s been softly moaning, groaning, and sort of creaking like a rusty gate for most of it. She has no interest in her food. She’s lying on her side on her soft bed in front of the propane stove, which is on and throwing off heat. It’s her favourite place on a cold day anyway, and the next couple of days promise to be very cold for March (highs in the teens, lows below 0).
I’ve got the car ready to take her to our regular vet (only 15 mins away) if she seems to be in distress. She’s such a vocal dog — much more so than our others have been — that even in the best of times she makes (happy) moaning sounds, a loud noise when she yawns, lots of attention-getting noises. I’m sorry she’s feeling so miserable, but glad she is not interested in playing or moving about. Hope she can get some healing sleep today. If she is not markedly better in 40-72 hours (tomorrow evening at the earliest, the wee hours of the morn on Wed. at the latest), we are to bring her into the vet for a re-check, if we don’t feel we need to visit them before that.
Update (10:05 a.m.) – She got up on her own and ate her breakfast. Gingerly, as if it might hurt to chew, but she ate it all. Then she went out (I carried her up and down steps) to pee in the snow. Now she’s sitting on the bed by the stove, crying and whining.
Update (8:20 p.m.) – She has been laying around all day, pretty listless and sleepy (which is much better than restless and panting in my book), but she eagerly ate dinner, which had the liquid Metacam (painkiller) mixed in it. I noticed that there is blood in and around her right ear canal this evening. When I wiped it with cotton squares, I got a lot of blood out of it. I don’t know if her ear is bleeding spontaneously and if that was/is the true cause of her pain, or if she scratched her ear because her ear hurt and that made it bleed, or if she was scratching her ear because her neck muscles/nerves hurt and that was as close as she could get to the source of the pain …. I may take her to the vet tomorrow, or make an appt. for Wednesday. Temps with windchill are predicted to be very cold tomorrow and I hate to subject her to that, plus the transporting, plus the waiting room experience … Meanwhile, my sister has to have her pacemaker surgery redone tomorrow because of a faulty lead line connection. Grrr.
Update (Thursday, 8 March) – I did take her to the vet, on Tuesday, and she now is on ear medication (Baytril Otic) and antibiotics (Cephalexin) twice a day, plus the Metacam for pain. She has been perky since Tuesday, although there is still quite a bit of blood and gunk coming from her ear. She seems much happier and tolerates the ear drops and our swabbing her ears several times/day, without even whining. We think now that all the pain on Sunday was because of an eardrum about to rupture, and then rupturing, and not due to a neck strain, as she shows no signs of pain in that area at all.
Here’s a photo of the girl taken on Saturday: