Is it possible to try to be the best that one can be and feel like the worst person ever? That’s how I feel right now.
My dog Eden is 13 years old. Three years ago, when she was 10, my vet recommended a dental cleaning because she had some tartar buildup and potentially needed an extraction or two. The procedure went well, until it didn’t. She had difficulty breathing halfway through and had to have her breathing manually regulated, which is apparently common, but freaked me the fuck out. The rest went well, we brought her home, and all was well for about 48 hours.
And then the fallout began.
By fallout, I mean that literally poop fell out of her rear end. She couldn’t control it. There was a lot of bile, and she left yellow spots everywhere she sat in spite of our best efforts to keep her bum clean, so we covered everything in the house in cheap sheets, and I was doing several loads of laundry every day. It lasted about a week in spite of doing everything we were told, including a “bland” diet consisting of chicken and rice, and adding water to her food to keep her hydrated. She no longer needed the pain meds after the third day and she was in good spirits the whole time, so to this day I think it was the after effects of the anesthetic.
Fast forward to now, when another vet recommends a teeth cleaning again, and I hem and haw and worry myself into a frenzy about whether or not to do it. I mean, Eden is like, 90 in dog years. I worry about the anesthetic, and I tell the vet who examined her my fears. She tells me that the breathing problem is common, and that Eden was in no real danger the last time. I tell her about the catastrophic bowel blowout afterward, and she’s not concerned. We do bloodwork. Eden’s lipase levels are elevated, and so are her creatine and glucose levels. Dr. Greene tells me there is no concern, we can go ahead with the cleaning.
So we do. On a Wednesday. And all goes well. Until it doesn’t, and we have an exact repeat of the last time this happened. She can’t control her bowels, is miserable, and her little butt looks like a baboon’s. I’m worried she’ll prolapse her anus, and I know her anal glands need to be expressed. We’re not sleeping. Every hour and a half to two hours she gets off the bed and needs to go out. I feel for her. I hold her. I tell her how good she is.
I go out that Saturday night and come home to a total blowout on the carpet. I was gone three hours.
I pet her until she goes to sleep.
On Monday, I call the vet. I tell them what’s going on. I tell them we’ve both been going on about 6 hours of sleep over the course of the weekend, and that we need to do something. I ask if I can give Eden Kaopectate. The vet says no on the Kaopectate, offers me probiotics and special low-fat, gastro-friendly food instead. I do all of it. $60 more dollars if it only means my girl will be better.
Nothing helps. Two more days of agonizing butt blowouts and bile/poop spots on every surface in my apartment (which I’ve covered with cheap sheets and blankets), and my baby’s not better. On Wednesday, frazzled from lack of sleep and completely losing my mind over how to help my girl feel better, I call the vet again and tell them we have to do something. We have to fix this.
They allow her an urgent care visit, which involves me dropping her off at the vet (the thing that caused her anxiety in the first place), and I do what they ask. The vet does another exam, gives her subcutaneous fluids, expresses her anal glands, and finally pronounces a diagnosis of “stress colitis”. Another $225, “discounted”. I get antibiotics, which finally, finally, seem to turn her poop from chocolate milk to chocolate mousse. I’ll take it.
When I begged help from the vet on Monday, the vet tech came out with the probiotics and some special food for gastric distress, and said to me, “In future, if we know in advance that this is going to happen to her, we can do some pre-procedural probiotics to get her in the right place before anesthetic.”
He said this.
After I told them what happened the last time.
Did I not advocate for her enough? I didn’t realize that the vet doing the surgery would be different from the vet who did the exam. Did Eden’s post-surgery history (documented by my vet in ABQ) not make it to PDX? All of her other records did, the exam vet discussed them with me. Should I have been more vocal in my protectiveness of my dog’s health and safety? Apparently. I fucked up. I thought the vets would have her best interests in mind. Turns out it’s up to me, and I let Eden down.
This will never happen again. I will ask harder questions. I will make sure that my girl is 100% cared for. I feel absolutely awful that she’s had to go through this because of me. I mistreated her. I trusted veterinary professionals to treat my pet comprehensively, when they are also only human and can’t prepare for every eventuality. I should have made a bigger deal about Eden’s last anesthetic experience.