Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Circling the drain

The chart said the dog was vomiting. When I got in the room I found a very large German Shepard who was laying on the floor panting at me. Turns out he hadn't been quite right ever since they got back from their winter place in Arizona. Immediately all those odd things that occur only in the Southwest flash through my mind. Plague. Coccidiomycosis. (I think). Others I can't quite remember.

So I do my physical exam. Her mucus membranes were pale pink. She was hydrated, and her heart and lungs sounded ok. When I palpated her abdomen something didn't feel quite right and I start to sweat. A radiograph of her abdomen confirmed it. She had a large honkin' spleen tumor.

Tumors of the spleen are not a good thing. Sometimes they can be benign but are mostly very nasty. And when you have a German Shepard, one pops to the front of your list: hemangiosarcoma. This tumor has multiple bleeding episodes where the patient feels puny than gets better until they don't stop bleeding. Usually then you are presented with a very pale dog in a lot of pain. Surgery can take out a spleen tumor, but prognosis is still poor. Most of the time once you diagnosis it and take it out it's already seeded metastasis to the liver. Usually even with aggressive chemo the survival time is four months or less.

It's hard to see elderly people cry. When you're telling somebody that their friend is going to die a horrible and painful death unless they have the courage to euthanize her it's hard. I started crying (as usual) while talking to them in the room. I'm not tough enough for this job most of the time. In the end she slipped away peacefully while her people talked to her. Faithful to the end.


Anonymous said...

I had to put my cat down on Sunday. It came completely unexpected. On Saturday he was curled up on my bed as usual, an older cat enjoying his cat kingdom. I thought nothing of his scarce movement until Sunday morning when I awoke with him at the foot of my bed, in the exact same spot, in the exact same position. Prodding him and calling his name didn't give the responses he'd usually give--he was always a loving cat and preferred to sleep near my head rather than at my feet. I called my mother, a past vet tech, and she came over right away. We ended up taking him to a local animal hospital, just to be safe. After tests revealed his kidneys were in 75% failure, it was apparent I wouldn't be walking out of there with my cat. Quality of life was discussed, and there was only one option.
I bawled like a baby for an hour before the vet came in to put an end to what would have be a painful death. I couldn't stop sobbing while I held him, and thinking of your blog, I quickly apologized to the vet--I knew that it was hard to watch someone in pain just as much as it is to be in pain. But she only shook her head, dismissing my apology, and stroked my cat's head gently while speaking to him, struggling with tears herself. Despite it being a terrible situation, it meant a lot to see the vet care just as I cared. It's one point in my memory of that terrible day that doesn't make me sad, but comforted.

So while you may not feel tough, and feel like you shouldn't may be more comforting in the long run if you allow those emotions to show. Just my opinion on the matter.

Evil Transport Lady said...

That sucks, my vet also cried with us when we had to put our dogs down. Don't feel bad about being human.