Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Life, interrupted

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Oh, the Scottish language...

Robert Burns' poem of To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough reminds me that, although Time may be linear, Life is not. All of one's plans or schemes can be snatched away or, if we are lucky, only interrupted for a brief time.

We struggled this week to save a member of our family. Our 7-year-old dog, Buckeye, who obeys me but adores my wife, was very nearly taken from us. An over-prescribed corticosteroid caused ulcers in his stomach to bleed and forced a vibrant and active border collie\spaniel\mutt mix into severe distress. To the point that advice was given that no one wants to hear of "putting him down."

Anemic and with platelet counts of nearly zero, he struggled with every breath and had little energy to fight. The vet didn't think he would last more than a day or two.

My wife brought him home so the boys could say their goodbyes and scheduled a return to the vet for the next day, but something from my Scot\Irish\mutt heritage reminded me that no one in our family goes gentle into that good night. And Buck still had light in his eyes.

I know more now than a week ago of corticosteroids and their effects on dogs and I failed him for not preventing this. But we weren't going to fail him now. A protein rich diet along with Pepcid and Maalox to reduce the stomach acid. And lots and lots of water.

This got him through a very rough night and his color began returning within 24 hours. On the second day, we added a light vegetable puree mix of carrots and beans into his food. By the end of day two, his breathing was easier and his bloody stools were negligible but by no means can we, as amateurs, know what's going on. That's why we rely on professionals because they're supposed to know what they're doing.

By the end of day three he was sleeping in one of his favorite positions: on his back, wedged between the arm rest and the seat cushion on the couch, next to my wife. On the fourth day he ran to the door when my wife spoke the words, "Walk?" But only for short walks until his strength returns. His breathing at rest was finally good but he gets out of breath during his short walks.

Veterinarians are now on my list of professions that I'm skeptical of taking their advice. Like lawyers, doctors or mechanics, when you find a good one, hang onto them.

Corticosteroids can kill dogs, especially in high doses and taken without an antacid. He was taking them with food, but there seems to be a tolerance level that once reached, it's like a dam breaking. Throwing up blood is a bad sign and often can be too late. We should have been giving him an antacid and a much lower dose, but we, the amateurs, didn't know this last week.

He was being treated for a severe rash and to help relieve the itching that accompanies "hot spots." But now we're looking at more natural remedies for dogs.

Following advice from several sites, including pets.webmd.com, it looks like another couple of weeks of Maalox before his stomach is in good shape.

And it looks like we'll be getting a new vet.

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