My pups and I have competed in dozens (and dozens) of nose work trials. Each time, the premium and final detail email lists information about the nearest emergency clinic – I’ve just assumed that they were for strains or sprains, or something minor.
Until last Saturday.
Toka and I had competed in an elite NACSW trial on Saturday, and were entered in a level 1 interior trial the following day. We drove from Harrisburg to western New York rather leisurely, arriving at our hotel with enough time to enjoy a stroll around the town and enjoy a quiet dinner. We turned in.
The nightmare started an hour and a half later at 12;30 a.m., when my little red dog woke me to tell me something was dreadfully wrong. He was pacing and panting, and my heart plummeted. As an Akita owner, I had the symptoms of bloat branded in my consciousness. Frantically, I googled ‘vet clinics’ in the town where we were staying. There was nothing close. The nearest clinic was either in Erie PA, or in Orchard Park, NY.
Nearly panicking, I checked the premium and Orchard Park Veterinary Clinic was listed as the ‘local’ emergency vet. As I urgently gave details of Toka’s symptoms to the woman at the other end of the phone, I rushed out to the car. Entering the address in GPS, I was horrified to find the clinic was over an hour away from where we were stay. “Oh my god, I may be delivering a dead dog to your door.”
But I had to try – so I loaded my beloved friend into the back of the car. The trip was horrific. I broke the land speed record, pushing my Outback to the limit, and praying that we did not hit a deer or see a cop.
I’m still amazed that we were able to make the trip without mishap, and that my darling boy was not in shock (or worse) the we arrived at the clinic door less than an hour later.
Toka is terrified of vets, and hides his fear with aggression. This issues is compounded because of his deafness. As soon as he saw people emerging from the clinic he started barking. I immediately told the tech that his reaction would be negative, and to keep everyone safe, he needed to be sedated. “Him jumping around and being a jerk can’t be good for him, and sure is not good for you.”
I waited impatiently to hear from the vet. She eventually called, stating she appreciated being able to sedate him. “He was so ornery I doubted he had bloat, but you are right, and got him here in time.” She also told me that it was a good sign that he was still ambulatory & responding – once a dog goes into shock, the prognosis is poor at best.
The game plan was to attempt to reverse his stomach torsion with an oro-gastric tube, and keep him sedated until a surgeon could operate him on Monday. Unable to see him or do anything to help, I drove at normal speeds back to the hotel, loaded my belongings and made the three hour trip home. The vet called as I drove, saying it appeared they were able to rotate his stomach back into position.
“No news is good news” — the vet and the vet techs who called me with updates kept reminding me of that. That phrase prevented me from calling the clinic a zillion times on Sunday and then Monday.
Toka’s surgery was Monday afternoon, and despite some findings that were of concern on pre-op radiographs, when the surgeon went in, he was happy that there was minimal damage to Toka’s stomach (“some bruising to blood vessels, no tears, no ruptures”) and that his spleen was in good shape.
Tuesday mid-morning the vet in charge of his case called and told me I could spring him out of vet clinic jail that afternoon. Joy! I set out on the three hour trip.
About an hour away from the clinic, she called again. They’d had to keep him sedated because when he started to come out of sedation, he because super aggressive because he was terrified. We timed cutting back his sedation for the time when I’d be there to retrieve him.
Except Murphy’s Law states things cannot go smoothly. The cashier at the clinic called and asked if she could use the credit card on file to pay the balance of the bill. Of course – I’d planned for that. But… the charge did not go through. Multiple times. I called the card company – the agent (and then the fraud department agent) kept saying ‘we don’t even see a charge coming through.’ This idiocy went on for an hour. The credit card staff kept telling the clinic staff I had more than sufficient credit and that they were not seeing any charges attempted.
Meanwhile, Toka had come out of sedation, and I could hear him bellowing in the back of the building. My anxiety level was stratospheric before I finally reached a family member, who gave the clinic a credit card number that went through.
With relief, I was able to retrieve my stoned, wonky boy, loaded him into the car, and left. (I had to purchase gas on the way home, and the card worked without a problem…. of course!).
Toka’s first night home was miserable. He paced, panted and cried all night as the medications worked out of his system. He fell asleep about 8 a.m. — just when I had to start work. My generally ravenous boy wouldn’t consider even sniffing food, let alone eat. More worry, more concern.
It’s Friday now, and he’s 90-95 percent back to himself. He’s thrilled to be able to eat 6 tiny meals during the day, has way more energy than his short 5 or 6 minute walks can burn off, and even considered playing with Kiyo a couple of times.
I am so grateful that my beloved boy is healing well. Luck and technology played in our favor — cell phones, GPS. no deer or cops appearing on our crazed drive to the clinic. And top notch vet care — all merged to save Toka.
Advice: know the signs of bloat. Even if you are wrong, get your dog into a vet. Don’t wait, even a minute. Better to be thought to cry wolf (or bloat) than to risk your dog’s life.
A big shout out to the friends who supported me and talked me down from my crazy-worried state – and who continue to give advice and support. You guys rock!
So very grateful that my little red dog — who makes me laugh every day — is still here to make me laugh. A happy ending!
ADDENDUM: Whatever breed of dog you have, know the signs of bloat:
— Panting or fast/rapid breathing
— Pacing, restlessness
— Excessive drooling
— Gagging, retching, vomiting – may or may not be ‘productive’
— Signs of discomfort
— Distended abdomen (may be painful)
(Don’t wait – rush to the vet. Save your dog!)