On Wednesday I noticed Sadie was a little off. She threw up once and seemed to have a tummy ache. I cancelled agility just to play it safe and give her a chance to take it easy and let the stomach issue pass. Her activity level was down a little but I felt safe letting her ride it out because she was still eating, drinking, peeing, and pooping.
Some pictures of Sadie taken Wednesday - walking around gingerly secondary to her "tummy ache"
But her behavior bothered me enough I went to the ER vet. I walked in and they asked what was up. I honestly felt a little stupid saying what was going on. She's acting normal and yet she isn't. How's that for a vague description? I told them they're probably going to tell me I'm nuts and that she's fine, but at least it'll come from someone of authority. I just had a nagging gut feeling, and that is why I am here.
The vet did an exam on Sadie, who stood still and wagged her tail the whole time. She even reached over and gave her gentle kisses. Here's what's wrong with this picture: Sadie sitting still, tail not giving the vet bruises, and Sadie not muzzle punching her with kisses. Weird. Just weird. The vet agreed with my assessment of her abdomen - she probably has a tummy ache, probably some mild enteritis or maybe even pancreatitis. We talked briefly of obstructions but Sadie's symptoms didn't fit the classical presentation for that diagnosis. She was happy to do an xray but wasn't pushing for it because Sadie seemed "normal" (to her, not me). I looked at my well behaved dog who was sitting politely, wagging her tail gently, just watching the vet and I talk - being such a good girl.
I ordered the xray.
I sat in the room chatting on facebook. We (Sadie's cheering section) were all fairly certain it would be fine, but better safe than sorry, right? I noticed they were gone a while. That's never a good thing.
The vet came back and showed me the xrays. She was shocked. I wasn't. I was disappointed - I wanted to be proven wrong - but I wasn't shocked. There was a foreign body in her stomach. One of the views raised the possibility that this foreign body had perforated the stomach, but the vet assured me this is unlikely given Sadie's symptoms. She said dogs with perforations tend to be REALLY sick and very obvious in their presentation --- remember this point, because it plays a key part in the story.
The vet recommended repeating the x-ray in 6-8 hours. If it was still there, surgery would probably be in our future. If it had moved or changed, we could probably just wait to see if it passes on its own. So I woke up at 3am to bring my little girl back to repeat the x-ray. As we waited for the radiologist to give us the results, Sadie and I sat in the lobby on a little bench. Sadie was curled up on my side, watching everyone come and go. Whenever someone would walk by her tail would start thumping in anticipation that they might come by and say hi to her. Very attentive, more or less comfortable appearing.
The vet came back and said the object was still there but since Sadie is so normal she was ok letting us go and repeating the x-ray in 24 hours. I explained to her my concerns over her behavior. She acts normal to her, the vet, because she doesn't know my dog. After listening to my concerns, she opted to keep Sadie at the clinic for an ultrasound and a consultation with their on-site radiologist when they come in at 8am. I agreed.
I went to work on 2.5 hours of sleep.
I got a call at 10 am from the radiologist. They wanted to do surgery. Still questioning perforation but Sadie's symptoms don't support it so they were anticipating a straight forward surgery. She said she'd call when it was over.
Finally she called me back and this is what they found -
There was a 5" rib bone jammed tightly in her stomach. The stomach was perforated at the fundus (top part) of the stomach and the bone then went on to perforate the diaphragm and invade her chest cavity giving her a pneumothorax (air in chest cavity). There was minimal spillage of stomach contents into her abdominal cavity. The stomach had started to adhere to the abdominal wall and diaphragm.
I went home with a heavy heart but thankful she was in capable hands and they were keeping her comfortable. The next day I visited her in the afternoon and she looked better, but tired. I brought a fleece blanket and laid it on the floor and sat down on it. She curled up in her favorite spot, between my legs, and immediately fell asleep. We sat like that for an hour waiting for the vet to come in and give us an update. They had another emergency going on but I was more than happy to wait that long.
The update went well and said if her blood tests came back good and she remained stable I might be able to take her home that night! I was surprised, as it had been indicated to me she'd probably be there two nights because of the nature of her surgery, but my healthy little girl was doing very good and I ended up getting her that night.
Sadie's "YAY I'M HOME!!" party - finally getting back to some normalcy.
She was VERY happy to be home and it made my night seeing sparks of my crazy girl coming back. No jumping on furniture and no stairs for two weeks which means we have to pick her up and carry her to go outside to potty and we help her on the couch if we are there to supervise. I weighed her this morning and she has lost 3.5 pounds in this ordeal which is a lot for her considering I keep her so lean to begin with she has no buffer for this kind of weight loss. Food consists of 5 small meals a day of chicken and rice, and I have her medications on a schedule because she has a few and they've all got their specific special requirements.
The incision :(
She has been sleeping a lot which is very good. Keeps her still which helps the healing and obviously her body needs the rest.
So that's where we are right now. It's been two days since her surgery and she'll have the staples removed in two weeks. Once that is done she can start working her way back into flyball and agility.
Moral of the story - Listen yo your gut. Sadie is a very stoic little girl. She did NOT present in the classical way and if I had waited until she started showing the more typical symptoms it may have been too late. The vet said dogs like her don't show those symptoms till they are circling the drain. It is a chilling thought - she easily could have died because she is just too damn badass.
The vet techs called her the happiest sick dog they had ever met.