Thursday, May 14, 2009

A good spring day

This day, this beautiful day, with the sun warm and the earth still spring cool and the breeze fresh and gusting. I'm sitting in the backyard, I'm in this day, just enjoying it now that I've taken my drugs which keep my head from exploding with snot from May allergies. Beside me is Rocky who keeps moving around the yard, trying to find the ultimate laze-about spot. First he tries in the full sun but gets too hot, then he tries the shade but that is not warm enough. Then he tries the partial shade but that spot is too wet or too dirty (and I move him off) or too lumpy or not lumpy enough.

A bee flies by and Rocky snaps at it, gets it and then instantly spits it out and starts pushing the taste of its guts out of his mouth with his tongue. I'm relieved that the dying bee didn't sting Rocky because that's what usually happens with Stella when she goes after them and, no, she never learns. Stella's hated bees, and all flying insects for that matter, ever since she got stung on her lady bits a few summers ago. She's never learned how to kill them, though, without getting stung on the inside of her mouth in the process and so, luckily, she's usually too slow to catch anything.

Now Rocky's sniffing his freshly squished bug and I take it away from him just in case it's still somewhat alive with stinger ready but as it turns out, it's not just squished, it's squashed, and with no hope of revival. See you in the next life, bee, and I toss it away into the planter where, in time, it will be consumed by the soil and one day become a flower.

I look at Rocky and while his recovery is not complete, I think the worst of it must be over. If he's fast enough to kill flying bees and not get stung, he must be well enough to not collapse on me. On Sunday, he had a day of bad diarrhea followed by a long night of vomiting up everything (on the rug then on another rug then outside on the fake grass then inside on the kitchen floor) until he was completely empty, followed by a day of not eating anything and Rocky is nothing if not a voracious consumer of all things edible. He walked around with his head hung low and stopped freaking at other dogs and could barely make it up the steps without tripping on his own feet. He wasn't even interested in running out beserkers into the backyard with Stella to scare away any potential squirrel, racoon, cat or possum invaders with maniacal barking and general hysterics.

Rocky was a very sick dog.

Of course, I immediately had worries that I had brought home parvo from Toronto Animal Services and passed it onto him and that was foremost on my mind when I took him into the vet. They did their usual round of tests and one hour later we walked out of there, Rocky all poked and prodded and me $800 lighter but with a pocket full of pills.

That night, I slept downstairs with Rocky because I didn't trust him not to have repeat episodes of vomiting or diarrhea even though I saw the x-rays and his guts were swollen but empty. I also didn't want him climbing up or down stairs in case he tripped and fell and broke his neck because the last thing I want is a quadriplegic dog vomiting and pooping all over himself.

Some of the test results came back the next day and his liver levels were hugely elevated. "They're the highest I've ever seen," the vet told me. "They're ten times outside of the normal range." She wanted me to bring him in and put him on IV to flush out his liver to try to get the values back to normal and I would have if it had been the day before but that morning, Rocky already seemed better.

I was taking a risk not bringing Rocky in for hospitalization but I did have previous experience with this. Rocky had gone through this last year, with the barfing and the super high liver values, and I think at the time, the vet - a different one - said the same thing, that the values were the highest she'd ever seen. And that time, I did put Rocky through a battery of tests, including a liver biopsy, and almost $3000 later, they found ... nothing.

It's not the vets' fault. They mean well and they try. But I'm of the opinion now that veterinary medicine is more art than science and maybe not even art of the realistic school but more of the abstract school, amorphous and open to interpretation.

Rocky recovered from last year's bout of liver disease, whatever caused it, with the help of Metronidazole and semi-precious Baytril (at $6 a pop, twice a day) and he recovered from another bout of it a few months later with the same meds.

This time, I didn't want to put him through another round of hospitalization and tests again, especially since his symptoms were so similar to the other two times.

I kept a very careful eye on Rocky to make sure there wasn't a relapse and he seemed to get progressively better thoughout the day. That evening, there was no vomiting dog and I slept undisturbed (except for the previously mentioned snot inside my own head which kept building up as I felt each speck of pollen touch down inside my nose).

The following day, and in my wheaziness I can't even figure out if that was yesterday morning or this morning, the vet phoned in the parvo test results and they were negative which was a relief because I didn't have to go around anymore bleaching every surface Rocky laid his butt onto (parvo is highly contagious and transmitted fecal-oral). She asked me how Rocky was doing and I told her Rocky's much better, his appetite had returned and his rude behaviour was almost back at 100%. He was also farting excessively again now that he was back to eating but I didn't mention that in case she suggested another battery of tests. Air freshener and open windows usually do the trick.

Rocky's sleeping now, curling his lip up in a dream where he's probably taking his vengeance out on some trespassing backyard critter. I've just slept a couple of hours in the backyard and for the first time in a week, especially with the allergy drugs coursing through my system, I'm feeling somewhat clear-headed and awake and I'm no longer overly contemplating sad pound dogs that have been euthanized and I'm not on edge waiting for my own dog to go into liver failure. This is a perfect spring day and life is returning.


Anonymous said...

Fred, I'm so sorry to hear that you've been going through such a stressful time. Poor Rocky, that is so hard to deal with. Spending the money is bad enough but having to see your boy feeling so awful is the hardest thing. And then with the whole Parvo thing......yikes. Glad you were able to enjoy the beautiful day today, it was gorgeous.

Hope to see you soon


Anonymous said...

Fred, I hope Rocky and you are both feeling better.

I love my vets, but - with all due respect, I have to agree it IS more of an art and less of a science than we'd like to think.

Having just spent most of the past two or three weeks at the vet's for different pets and conditions, I questioned whether I'd be as concerned if it were a child. I was reassured that I'd be just as obsessed if it were a child, whatever that means (all y'all reading this blog know what I mean).

Turns out the older dog (11), who was crying her heart out a couple of weeks ago, had had some sort of sprain, probably by just running around with the puppy (not actually a puppy since he's nearly 6, but it's his Attitude). We might have treated her with just some rest instead of hundreds of dollars of testing and drugs, but at her age, "wellmess testing" seemed in order.

The old cat (19) was no longer eating or drinking, so It Was His Time, despite speculation that he could be saved with some heroic measures.

The younger cat (13) has CRF and a few other issues, but do we really need to invest in sub-Q's and corn-based geriatric diet that she won't eat, just because Hill's sponsors the Vet College pet nutrition courses and is subsidizing a new research centre at OVC?

With so many alternative informational resources at our disposal, it's important to have a real dialogue with our vets.

Fred said...

Susan, your write-ups for the dogs have been really really good recently. I especially like the one for Smiley and the one for Oscar, the Corgi, reminds me to look into getting a belly band or diapers for Rocky because he's been dripping in his sleep since he got sick.

redstarcafe, gotta love those wellness tests and all the corn based foods sold at vet clinics. I'm sorry to hear about your old cat. 19's a good long life.

susan said...

Just wanted to add a "get well" to you and to Rocky. Stella (mine) has only just discovered bugs of any kind. We go outside and for the next ten minutes, it's like trying to get the attention of a teenage girl at the mall.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, given the parvo scare, it was a good thing you got Rocky checked out and didn't just give him a Pepcid AC.

It really does seem a whole lot worse when it's our animal companions than when we come down with flu or eat something we shouldn't have.

Hope the other dogs at the shelter are OK and able to be adopted out soon.

Fred said...

susan, mmm bugs. Crispy on the outside and disgusting on the inside.

redstarcafe, I think TAS is pretty much back to normal by now, though I haven't been there in a few days. Probably drop by today and see how're things.