Intro: This is a wordy post; I tried to edit to make it shorter, but there was a lot to explain. If you have dogs you may want to at least skim through so that you’re informed.
Hi Friends! I’m home from my weeklong work trip in Las Vegas, thank goodness. So much for my plans of writing and wedding planning at night in my hotel room. Working 10-12 hour days, most of which involved a high level of networking and socializing, really wore me out. Each night I climbed into the big cozy hotel bed with my laptop, and proceeded to fall asleep with my fingers at the keyboard. I could barely type a sentence without drifting off. Thank goodness I didn’t hit “publish” on anything without saving it for review the next day.
Back to the update on life as we know it this week: To those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, thank you all for listening to me rant and rave and really just vent about the stress our poor pup Charlie has been going through. It’s really been stressful for us to see her in pain, and heaven knows it’s been even more stressful for Charlie herself to endure this.
I think this stress is the main reason why I’m just not feeling the creative writing spark that usually motivates me to blog. But I did want to share a little overview of what we’re dealing with since it’s too hard to do a comprehensive update via Twitter or Facebook. I keep trying to edit and make it shorter, but
Charlie started experiencing pain before I left for Vegas. We went to the emergency center, and we left with some pain medications and instructions to return and see the surgery/neurology specialists the following week if the pain persisted. While I was traveling, Ryan had to take Charlie back in because the pain got worse. The emergency vet transferred her upstairs to the specialist for further diagnosis. Long story short, Charlie had to undergo an MRI in order for the neurologist to make an accurate diagnosis.
Charlie was diagnosed with diskospondylitis, or an infection of the disks between the vertebrae. The vet then tested her for brucella, a bacteria that rarely, but sometimes, causes this infection. They had to test for it because this disease/bacteria is transmittable from animals to humans - so if for some reason Charlie had it we needed to take precautions. The initial test came back positive, we found out. So today I took Charlie back for a final brucella test and also to have her hind leg checked, because now she is limping severely with it.
During the visit the neurologist talked to me at length about the Brucella issue. Even though I worked in the veterinary field for years, I was unfamiliar with it – I guess because it’s much more common on farms, where it’s transmitted from cows to the farmers who milk them.
In case you’re wondering: Charlie most likely contracted it back when she was a stray, unspayed dog. It probably was to blame for her random instances of back pain in the past. No cause ever showed up on xrays.
Anyway, here’s the deal: the bacteria is usually transmitted like an STD among dogs, but it can be passed to other pets or to humans via urine or feces from the infected dog. Therefore, we now have to take the following precautions:
-Wear gloves to clean up if Charlie has an accident inside
-Wear gloves and clean up after she poops in the yard
-Ideally, have her go potty in a separate part of the yard (the front, for now)
-Keep Charlie away from any people who have weakened immune systems (babies, old people, or sick people)
-If the final test confirms the diagnosis, get Merlin (other pup) tested. Not sure about the cats.
Here’s where thing get tough:
Apparently it’s recommended that you euthanize the infected pet(s) if you have a baby or another immune-compromised household member. (If you don’t, you’re ok keeping the pet.) We can keep Charlie separate from visitors with kids, and my mom. However, we were planning on having kids before Charlie is gone. I’m already 33, and Charlie probably has another 3-4 healthy years left in her. There’s no way I’m going to euthanize my beloved dog just so that I can pop out babies.
On the other hand, we’re trying to figure out how we’d handle things with Merlin, our other dog. If he’s already infected, we deal. If he’s not, we don’t want him to become infected down the road. If he got sick and then we waited for him to leave our lives naturally, I could be past 40. If he’s still healthy, it may be better to get him into a disease-free home. But that’s a tough decision.
So I don’t know what we’ll do. What I do know is that we’ll continue to educate ourselves and not freak out until the final test comes back. If it’s positive, we’ll fence up a little side yard for Charlie to go potty in. And then we’ll take things one day at a time, and hope we get all her pills straight at each meal. :)
In the mean time, Ryan’s calling Charlie “our little honeymoon”, since she’s already cost us several thousand dollars in the last week. It was hard to stomach the cost of the MRI, especially knowing that we have such an expensive spring coming up, but I knew that it was the best way to diagnose whatever was going on.
It really sucked being across the country while Charlie was going through all this The only things keeping me sane were the knowledge that Ryan is amazing with the pets, and my trust in the surgeons/neurologists because I used to work for them. They’re the best, no question. If you’re anywhere in the DC area, I strongly recommend the HOPE Center for any veterinary emergency, even if you have other options closer to home. And the Veterinary Surgical Centers for surgery/neurology. I’ve worked at several places in the area, and these guys are definitely the best.
Disclaimer: These opinions are my own. I wasn’t compensated or perked in any way for making the above recommendations.
All that being said, I’d love to be better prepared for these veterinary emergencies in the future. I’m going to research veterinary health insurance for our other pets; I know that it’s gotten more comprehensive and more affordable in the last few years. But if you have any experience dealing with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or if you have any questions about Charlie’s condition, ask away. I’ll do my best to answer or point you in the right direction.