We’ve had a scary few days at our house with Bailey getting very ill and needing emergency surgery to save her life.
Dogs are stoic and often don’t show distress until things become really bad. We took her to our regular vet as soon as she started to act the least bit off. I tend to feel “better safe than sorry” if anything at all seems off. This time, I’m really glad I did. Before bed, I felt that something wasn’t quite right. Nothing dramatic, but something… We called the vet at 7am the next morning.
Getting to see our regular vet in a timely manner almost didn’t happen because he was booked solid. The front desk staff absolutely refused to accommodate us for several days. But my husband insisted that the vet gave us a call as soon as he came in. The vet fortunately did call back and agreed to see Bailey; despite his having a full schedule. He examined Bailey early in the day and did rush blood work and x-rays. His findings were that Bailey had a raging infection & needed surgery ASAP. The infection was a ticking time bomb. Just a few hours could mean the difference between life and death.
Although our regular vet diagnosed her, he wouldn’t do the recommended surgery. Instead, he referred us to the specialty/emergency clinic an hour’s drive from us. It definitely was an emergency where her abdomen was filling with toxins from a fast moving, raging infection. Unfortunately, none of the surgeons or internists at the specialty clinic had any opening for weeks. We had to instead wait all day until the animal clinic turned from a specialty one to an emergency one in the evening.
Meanwhile, our regular vet kept Bailey for the day on a very heavy dose, antibiotic and fluids drip. He closed at 5 PM. The “on-call” surgeon at the emergency clinic then didn’t come in until after 6 PM. After that, there was a dog that had been hit by a car come in to the emergency clinic. That dog needed immediate attention. I don’t know what happened after that, but Bailey’s surgery didn’t get started until 10PM. This was over 12 hours after our regular vet said she needed immediate emergency surgery to avoid sepsis.
Long story shorter: OVER $11,000 later Bailey is still with us and should now be okay. Reading the paper work from the surgeon is especially scary where it states how close to death Bailey was when she finally had the surgery done. The surgeon saw Bailey before the car accident dog came in, but she didn’t get to Bailey for another 4 hours. Bailey spent the next 3 days at the specialty/emergency clinic with 24/7 care. They said that on top of everything else, her blood sugar had dropped. So, she was on a glucose drip in addition to two different IV antibiotics. Although extremely small, Bailey has never before had any sort of blood sugar problems.
The above photo was taken shortly after Bailey got back home. She’s all dirty and looks a mess. There is even mysterious goo on top of her head. I don’t know what happened during the time she was at the two vets, but she’d just had a bath a couple of days before and is normally very pristine about staying clean. I won’t be able to clean her up until after the surgeon rechecks her two weeks from now and gives the go-ahead. But that’s okay. Bailey is still alive and home again.
The entire staff at the specialty/emergency clinic ooo’ed and aaah’ed over how tiny and very cute Bailey is: from the moment we took her in until the moment my husband picked her home to come home. While she was hospitalized, we called every few hours to check up on how she was doing. Each time, we seemed to talk to someone different. Even the front deck staff said that they had to go into the back to get a peak at the super cute, white fluff ball. When we first started to see our regular vet years ago, the entire staff there also couldn’t seem to get their fill of Bailey’s cuteness. She has a sweet personality to match her cuteness. So, she’s still a clinic favorite.
Bailey is thrilled to be back home, but she’s not very happy to have to be confined until she heals from the surgery. She normally has full run of the house and is a jumper. Less than 7 inches tall at the top of her shoulder, she will jump on & off furniture (even at 9 years old) as if it were effortless. Our other two girls (a tiny big larger) use the stuffed hippo as a ramp.
Bailey will be continuing with two different antibiotics for 2 more weeks. But those can now be given orally & not via IV like when hospitalized. The surgeon also sent home a boatload of different pain meds (multi drugs), but I feel they may have been over medicating her for pain. Her eyes look kind of weird. So, I plan to taper her off to “as needed”; rather than keep her on all 3 of the different pain drugs for 2 full weeks. Having been a Chihuahua show breeder for many years, I do have some experience with dogs. None of my dogs in the past have ever been prescribed so much pain medication for anything. I’m familiar with each the pain drugs Bailey has been given. I’ve never seen them used in combination like this for such a small dog. I plan to do everything else exactly as the surgeon has prescribed and advised. But I’m going to trust my judgement and Bailey’s behavior on how much pain meds she gets. My husband recently had hernia surgery, & that’s how he handled his pain. Although he was prescribed a narcotic, he never used it & opted for only the less addictive, prescribed pain killers. Not the narcotic. His surgeon had said that he could take all together.
The emergency clinic surgeon made a note that she feels Bailey has a brain defect that needs a specialist to treat. That shocked and alarmed me. So, we immediately called our regular vet, who knows Bailey better, to get his opinion of why Bailey’s eyes suddenly look strange. He said that Bailey absolutely does NOT have the brain condition that the surgeon thought she was seeing. Two possible causes of her eyes looking “off” could be super excitement or maybe the effects of the pain meds. I have noticed that after she has been home for a little while (and the high dose of pain med was wearing off) her eyes have started to look more normal again. She also doesn’t seem to be in any pain. After tonight, I’m going to reduce her pain meds to just one drug and then gradually taper off. Our regular vet agreed.
Anyhow, when many people get a dog, they have no idea of just how expensive a fur family member can be. It’s like having a real kid. Since mid-January, well over $17,000 has gone into Bailey’s health care. First, that outrageously expensive dental and now this less than 2 ˝ months later. We’re not rich; so, yes, this hurts our finances big time. However, we’re both willing to sacrifice other things (a lot of things) for the welfare of these dogs we chose to share our lives with. This is something that every pet parent should realize could be needed at some time during their pet’s life.
Anyone who chooses to be a pet parent should be willing and prepared to do the best for their pet no matter what. Having a pet to share your life is a big responsibility. Before taking on this responsibility, one should know upfront that getting a pet (even when buying a very highly priced animal and not selecting to less expensively adopt one) will probably be the least expensive part of pet parenthood. I know this sounds preachy. However, this is what I have told all my puppy purchasers in the past and how I have lived myself. Bailey's recent, unexpected emergency has been a costly reminder of what can happen when we chose to share our lives with an animal that is completely dependent on us for its life.
Shockingly, the emergency clinic refused to even see Bailey until we made a $6000 down payment, with more charges to be added on later after they examined her. I remember when vet care was affordable. But remembering the "good old days" doesn't mean much in 2023. To properly care for a fur family member these days is pretty much the same as human health care without insurance. Pet insurance doesn't cover the medical care Bailey has needed this year. However, when you breed, buy, or adopt a pet, you owe it to them to make sure they get only the best of care no matter what it takes. Based on how much business the emergency and specialty clinics do (despite their extremely high costs), there are a lot of people out there who agree.
I once "sold" (but never cashed that check) a puppy to a lady who was a truly wonderful person but very poor. She was a retired nurse on disability. To make sure that her furbaby-from-me always had the best of care, she consistently spent almost every cent she had on him. There came a point where she couldn't afford to even have her car fixed. She had to go to go without a car in a city where public transportation is weak and a car is needed. But her furbaby still ate only the best quality food and always had the best quality medical care and plenty of toys. He was her baby. The love between them was unbreakable. They made each other happy. If put in a situation like we just faced, I'm sure she would have mortgaged her very small home to pay the bill. She had a boarder to help share the basic expenses to be able to keep the modest home she owned. But her furbaby was the most important thing in her life. He was her family. Different people put different values on pets. She valued hers like I do mine.
The good news is Bailey is home and the worst is now over. She now just needs to heal from the surgery and continue to fight off any infection that may still be in her little body. I’ll be happy when the next couple of weeks are over & Bailey can go back to her normal life with us and the other two girls. I’m also very, very, very thankful that we still have her. I love this little girl sooooo much!!! She is priceless.