Monday, May 24, 2010

Cassidy in Retrospect

A little over two weeks ago, my thirteen pound terrier mix came out to meet me when I got home from work like she always does.  The first thing we do when I get home is I take her outside to go potty and we went out like we always do and she jumped and ran around like she always does.  It was the first really warm day of the year and my work polo was insanely hot over the tank top I'd worn in that morning before.  Tugging it up over my head, I pulled it up and partially off, heard her yip and by the time I got my shirt down, she had already run across the concrete stoop in front of the garage toward the house.
I called her over to see if maybe she'd been stung since there had been a lot of bumblebees buzzing around the yard.  I checked her from stem to stern and no stingers, no stings or bites or marks and she just simply wanted to go back inside the house.  She scurried up onto the porch to the door and cowered there.  I noticed her walking a little funny once she got inside the house and asked if she'd been limping before that.  By all accounts of the house, she hadn't been walking funny until after we'd gotten home. She didn't seem to be in pain and she was doing her normal doggie thing, so I asked if she wanted to go for a ride in the car to go pick up a few things we needed from the petstore.
We made the trip in, she was fine through the store and she came home with no problems.  Later that night, however, my son put a blanket over the two of them like he always does, wrapping them both in a tent, and she yelped.  We were immediately on it, trying to figure out what he had done.  He said he hadn't touched her and she was limping again where she hadn't really been before.  That started her laying around, not going down the steps to go outside to go potty and, once we'd gone to bed for the night, pain panting.  Since my girlfriend  had a Great Dane we'd had to put down for wobblers disease, I was seeing a lot of symptoms from the degradation I'd watched her dog go through.  Since she was a vet tech as well, at two in the morning I called her up and told her Cassidy was panting really hard and gulping.  She could hear how hard Cassidy was panting over the phone and told me it was a pain pant.  She said I could give her a low dose of children's aspirin and that would help the pain to see if it passed by the next day and recommended ice packs to reduce swelling, but said if it didn't clear up by the next day or at least get a little better that we should really get her in to the vet for a pain medication that had less chance to cause organ problems.  I thanked her, got an ice pack for her and some aspirin into her and within half an hour she calmed down and was able to sleep a little.
The next morning when we got up, she seemed to be in more pain than the day before and she wasn't eating or drinking and growled at anyone, including the other animals, who came near her.  I went to work that morning and asked the household to keep an eye on her.  I called the vet office when they opened, asked them what they wanted me to do and they said to bring her in for a visit.  After a phone call to my sister, the vet visit was made and Cassidy made it in for her first visit on May 6th at 3:30.  The vet gave her a half tab of prednisilone twice a day for swelling in her back and said it was most likely a sprain or strain from dorking around and that she should be better in a few days.  She came home, we managed to dose her pills in peanut butter and she settled down for the night.  She got in her kennel and she didn't move until I took her into bed with me that night.  Again, we settled her in with an ice pack and, since her pain didn't seem to be less, I iced her for 20 minutes and then let it rest for 20 minutes.  All night long.  The most I slept at a stretch was half an hour.
The next morning when I woke up, Cassidy stayed in the bedroom while I got up and got ready for work in the morning.  She never does that.  She stays until she realizes I'm up for the day and then she's right by my side.  I called her to go outside and go potty and she didn't come.  She'd never disobeyed a command from me before.  So I went in to the bedroom and scooped her up to bring her back out to the living room.  When I set her down, she literally drug her back end into the kennel.  She couldn't use her back legs at all.  When I moved them, she didn't even notice and the muscles were completely atonic.  It was like moving around a fresh chicken leg.  I tried touching her toes and nothing.  I tried squeezing her toes and nothing.  I tried literally squeezing her little toe pad just as hard as I could.  Nothing.
That was the part where I broke down sobbing because my dog was paralyzed and I had to go to work.  I couldn't even call the vet because I was crying too hard.  My male mate had to call the office for me and tell them what had happened.  They said to up the dose of prednisilone to a full tab and a half until she could get in.   The earliest they could get her in was at 10:00 the next morning.  It took me forever to pull myself together long enough I could see through my tears so I could drive two hours for work.  Mom said she would drive them to the vet the next morning so I wouldn't have to miss work Saturday morning.  Through the tears of knowing I would have to put my dog down, I drove to work and stopped at my girlfriend's house to see her before work.  I told her that Cassidy couldn't use her back legs and, as the veterinary professional she is, she started in with the questions.  When did you notice?  Did she have any muscle tone at all?  Did you check her toes for pressure?  How much pressure could she stand?  Did she notice the pressure at all?  Was she able to keep her bladder and bowels?  Is she still in pain?  At the end of all the questions, she said the vet would most likely do a deep pain test and some x-rays to see exactly where the damage was in the spine and how severe the damage was.  If surgery was needed, they would refer her to medvet in Columbus.  It helped to ease my mind while I went through work and waited to hear about my dog from the family between clients at work.
The news came back that it was most likely a slipped disc that Cassidy had gotten when she slipped or tripped and put just enough torque on her spine that she inflamed the tissues.  The disc was putting pressure on the spine and causing the paralysis.  The steroid would help the swelling and they upped the dose again by another half tab and gave her a half tab of tramadol for pain so she could sleep and let her body heal itself.  He said there was no need to put her down at this point and said we could try the drugs and see if they helped.  If not, they said we had options at that point to either opt for surgery or we would have the choice to put her down.
At least I'd dodged the bullet again.  I'd told my mate to ask them what her quality of life would be if she ended up paralyzed.  He said the vet seemed shocked that we'd even thought to ask and told us we would probably have some special challenges at that point, but that her quality of life could be very good.  He said if she ended up with permanent paralysis that we could opt for surgery to see if the injury would correct and/or get a doggie walker should she not have pain or further damage in her spine but just needed a little help to get moving.
I considered it a blessing and entered into the care for the dog with tentative hope.  I had it in my mind that putting her down could quite possibly still be on the horizon and that we had a long road to recovery.  If this injury had happened in a human, we were looking at probably six months of rehab and medication and care.  I knew the paralysis might never clear up or that it could completely reverse.  No one could say for sure how long it would take or give us any mile markers on her progress.  We were on a "wait and see" timeline and, when you're waiting on an animal who is like another kid to heal, it is rather nerve wracking and frustrating.  Here we were on an indefinite timeline, trying to figure out how to dose a dog with medicine when she refused to take it off of a peanut butter spoon, when she hadn't been eating or drinking and had no interest in her treats and who fought every movement we made to get them into her...
By the end of the first week expressing her bladder for her, having her turn away food, not being able to get any kind of food or much water into her and literally fighting her tooth and claw to get the pills into her stomach instead of dissolving into her mouth, we were really tired and strung out.  She needed potty breaks every couple of hours and she couldn't support her back end at all.  She wasn't willing to even help us get her out of her kennel, so we started putting towels down on her blankets and wrapping her in a sling to carry her to the bathroom so we could squeeze her in the bathtub so we didn't have to carry her outside and not be able to see in the middle of the night.  She wet the kennel during the night, so we had to change the bedding every morning when we got up.  She was having less and less control of her bladder as the swelling got worse in her spine.  She was still able to hold her bowels, however, and we considered that a blessing even if she hadn't pooped yet. We were able to get her to eat a little beef and rice that the vet suggested to try getting her to eat on Saturday night.  By Monday she wouldn't even try eating again, so we bought baby food and fed her as much baby food as she would eat, which was only ever about half to a quarter of a jar of the first meats food.  We offered it to her every four hours to see if she would take some and drink a little water.  Our lives consisted of pillings that were horrible at 10 am and pm and every four hours pottying and then offering food and water and changing her bedding while she was out of the kennel if she'd wet.
By her next vet visit on Thursday the 13th, she was starting to perk up a bit, thankfully.  Since this entry has been incredibly long, I will break it up into the next entry.