Being a veterinarian brings with it certain bonuses when it comes to having your own pets. There’s meds at cost, no need for prescriptions or pharmacies, access to x-rays (when I had my clinic… I have to say, that’s one of the things I miss the most, particularly for our own bodies!), access to information about new products for pets and of course the knowledge about conditions, problems and diseases that creep up from time to time.
Many of you who have followed the blog know that the knowledge I write about has led to “that sinking feeling” from time to time when I have really disliked being right.
How I wish I was completely wrong about Harry’s hemangiosarcoma or Mulder’s cutaneous lymphoma.
I really wish I had been incorrect about Casey’s laryngeal paralysis and how the warmer weather and his exuberant personality were a bad combination his final spring with us.
And how I wanted to be completely off base with the cancers that I suspected as we watched Calypso, then Phillipa and eventually sweet Luigi gradually succumb over the last two years.
Knowledge is a wonderful thing but it can be a bitch when you know what horrible things can be making your beloved pet behave a certain way or show particular symptoms.
Which is why I’ve had a bit of fear nestled in the back of my mind and heart the past three months regarding our springer spaniel, Cleopatra.
As I was finishing writing my book early this spring, Cleo and UB would cuddle either under the desk at my feet or behind me on one of the couches. It became apparent sometime in March that a certain someone had a pretty icky smell coming from her mouth.
Initially I didn’t think it was too bad of a deal. Cleo is at least 13 years old and could be even older. She definitely has some tartar and it was possible she had a bit of an infection. So, being a good veterinary-Mummy, we began a routine course of antibiotics that are great for teeth and the smell cleared up.
Until I stopped the antibiotics.
Then the smell gradually reappeared and it was very dental-smelling and pretty icky. Around that time she also started lapping up her water in an unusual, aggressive sort of way. Water would fly out in all directions and then she would trail some away from the water bowl afterwards.
Which was when the vet-brain started making clickity-clickity sounds and I started wondering…
Could it be a tooth root infection? One that was causing her discomfort and would require a trip to Missoula with general anesthesia and a lengthy dental cleaning with possible extractions? I would want bloodwork first because Cleo hasn’t had to have any medical procedures in years and, again, she is at least 13.
Or could it be something even worse than that? Like an oral tumor? Squamous cell cancers like to hide in mouths and there’s that whole being at least 13 years old thing that went through my mind several times a day.
Cleo let me palpate her as much as I was able to, with and without her Daddy helping. Her lymph nodes were never enlarged and she never pawed at her face. Her eating and drinking continued, albeit with the piggy-dog style of lapping at the water.
With us traveling to Vancouver I didn’t want our house-sitter to have to worry about anything so I started a second, longer round of meds using a different antibiotic that is also very good for teeth and bones.
Her breath was lovely for the two weeks I kept her on that particular antibiotic but we were right back to square one once we finished.
And then, as we were relaxing on the couch with Cleo and UB one night I saw her reach up and paw at the left side of her mouth with her back leg. An indication that something, indeed, was there and now it was bothering her.
It was time to do something, even though I dreaded the fact that my one of my suspicions was likely to be correct.
Because I’m really not ready for any more loss at this time. We’ve made it through 3 months without any tragedy and its kind of nice.
And Cleo is as much my dog as her daddy’s and we both love our furry princess with all of our hearts. She’s affectionate and polite, feminine but tough and she prances like no other when she’s found something special in the forest that she wants us to see but won’t relinquish unless you’re really serious about it.
And lets not even go into what she means to UB…
So Cleo joined me when I had to take Alistair to the airport in Missoula so he could fly back to Bismarck and we visited our favorite Internal Medicine veterinarian who is a hilarious, no-nonsense guy who always gets to see our train wrecks.
He was stumped. I mean, the odor was there but nothing else.
He listened to her ticker (minor heart murmur noted) and together we knocked her out on gas (she was a perfect angel throughout it all) and we put gloves on and started to muck around in her mouth.
And we were still stumped. Which is when he mentioned the whole Squamous cell thing and my heart rate picked up. Until we rolled her over for one more peek on the other side and he said, “What the heck is that?”
NoCleo had a small, half
centimeter diameter stick embedded into her upper palate, wedged tightly between her upper teeth that had been silently festering away for weeks and weeks, targeted by white blood cells and becoming infected, then getting cleaned up with meds, all the while jammed deep into her tender tissues.
No wonder she drank her water like that!
It made a “shlucking” sound as Dave removed it and my poor princess had an indentation across her palate from tooth to tooth. The teeth are fine and the indentation didn’t bleed and Cleo slowly recovered and was a bit groggy for awhile. And a bit smelly still so we did one more week of antibiotics.
Dave was thrilled. His assistant was thrilled. Mummy was thrilled. Our house-sitter, Jessi was thrilled. Lynn, who sleeps with Cleo when she visits was thrilled.
And Daddy, who had made a point to have a private word and a rub with Cleopatra when we dropped him off at the airport, knowing the things we would be looking for and hoping to not find that day, was thrilled.
And UB gets to keep his big sister and run off in the woods together or cuddle on the magic blanket when we drive the long roads to see Daddy in Bismarck and Cleo gets to flop on her side on the lawn so I can scritch her belly and she’ll hold her paws ever-so-daintily when I trim her toe nails and I can gaze into her dark brown eyes when she sits so nicely for one of her “things” and I’ll get to watch her take potato chips from the kindest of Daddies and she can talk to us with her slight lisp in her southern belle voice as she tells us again about relying on the kindness of strangers and both dogs get to go to the groomer’s on Tuesday for a fresh spring tune-up.
And to try to get the lingering smell off of UB from his meeting with this year’s annual skunk.
And I was wrong!
And I love it!
That doesn’t mean I won’t think about her heart murmur or last year’s Vestibular Disease if she seems off. Just like I remind myself how old our Siamese cat, Sport is when he misses the target on a jump. No different from me wondering about diabetes with Bebe, the cat if I think she’s drinking too much.
But, in general, my mind and heart are so happy that I was wrong.
So here’s to warmer weather, my 3rd book getting some promotion, book events being set up, (June 9th at the Double Arrow Lodge, local peeps), sports cars that blow a lot of smoke when they overheat but are able to be limped home, and our golf games being worked on.
Now, back to that lawnmower…