Sunday, May 27, 2012

How much medical treatment to you save a life- when it's your dog

The last 24 hours have not been good.  In my post yesterday, you will recall that I was about to take our 12 year old (that's 60-something in people years) Shih-Tzu for a walk. I take her out for about a 30 minute walk once a day.  Usually sometime between 3 and 5pm.  The only exception to that is when it snows or is raining.  We also don't go until later in the evening if it's a really hot day.

By 2 p.m. every day, Sugar is usually sitting right beside me, looking at me with those puppy eyes, waiting to go walking.  Yesterday she wasn't which was odd, but we have company over for the weekend so she was a bit out of her routine.

Sugar yesterday before I realized she was sick.
When I put her collar on and told her it was time to go, she wouldn't budge.  Not at all.  That's REALLY odd.  After a lot of coaxing and no movement, I picked her up and took her to the grass outside.  She did not want to go and even appeared to be walking quite gingerly.

We eventually gave up on her and put her back inside to lay down, and we went to dinner.  We thought perhaps she had strained a muscle - after running around like a wild dog after her bath Thursday night (she does that after baths) - and we thought she was just tired and maybe sore.

We came home to a dog who had vomited twice and was obviously not feeling well.

Throughout the evening the vomiting continued - about once every hour or so.  Then over night it continued - and got worse.  I stayed up with her the entire night catching her vomit on towels and cleaning up her chin after every bout.  By morning we both were exhausted having slept very little, and I was extremely worried.

Never before had she vomited this much continuously.  Concerned she was getting dehydrated, I gave her some water. She vomited that up.  I gave her some Pedialyte.  The same thing occurred.  Nothing would stay down.  I was beyond concerned now.  I called the vet around 7 a.m. and we had Sugar in to see the doctor by 7:30 a.m.

Sugar's 12 Birthday in February
After an x-ray and blood-work, the doc said that he saw no obstruction in her stomach.  That was great news because I feared she may have eaten some small construction material like caulk or a piece of plastic left behind from our recent bathroom remodeling project.  I figured this would be a long-shot since I tried hard to keep it all tidy, but Sugar is a scavenger and sniffs and eats whatever she finds.

The blood work revealed high liver and pancreas enzymes.  Apparently that can mean a multitude of things or just pancrea-itis (she ate something that didn't agree with her).  The doc was leaning toward pancrea-itis but he strongly suggested that we leave her at the vet so that they could put her on an IV for fluids (to avoid dehydration) and give her anti-biotics and pain meds until they could get her stomach settled enough to take solid food.

Leaving her there was the last thing I wanted to do, but the doc felt it was VERY important for her to stay and get onto an IV for fluids.  We ultimately decided to leave her there for a day or two with the plan that we'd check on her throughout the day and tomorrow (Monday) re-evaluate where we were at.

Sugar - Christmas 2011
It's now 6 p.m. here and we've already checked on her twice (at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.).  There wasn't much change at 2 p.m. but between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., she hadn't been sick. We'll check in again once more tonight and then re-evaluate in the morning.

I'm writing about this for several reasons.  One is that I've been very fortunate.  Since my grandmother died almost 10 years ago, I've never had a family member in a fatal health situation.  It's an area that I'm glad to have little experience in, but it's also such an emotional and stressful time.  Now, some may take exception and say that a dog is not "family" but to's just like one of our children.  And it appeared this morning that she may be in a life and death situation.

Secondly, I'm always amazed at what veterinarians can do these days.  They have x-rays, ultrasounds, surgeries like humans, and dog vet specialists.  If there's an ailment, there's a medicine, a surgery, a test for it.

Third...those tests are expensive.  Here's a look at Sugar's total bill for one day (left column) and two days (right) column.  We had to leave a deposit of $950 for her to be treated!

And finally, all this brings up the issue of when is it more humane to let her pass away?  Is there a cost that is too much to try to save her?  Is there an age that once she passes it, you look at medical treatment differently.

While filling out the paperwork to admit her for the two-days, they asked that if she went into cardiac arrest (which was highly unlikely), should they resuscitate?  How do you decide the right answer to that question?  If they bring her back, there's no guarantees that she'll be the same dog or be able to function.

Coincidentally, this was a question that my husband and I have discussed in detail about ourselves since one of my best friends had an aneurysm and survived.  She's been in a nursing home for nearly nine months in a state I'm not so sure she'd want to live the rest of her life in. But what's the best answer in a situation like this when it's your family member?  Your dog?

It's been a stressful day for sure.  One Memorial Day weekend I'm sure I won't soon forget....

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