Oh my, it has been a week yall!! But things are definitely on the upswing, thank goodness!
I’m sure a lot of you have seen the updates, or as I like to say “pupdates” on IG about our little black brindle frenchie, Gertie. In case you’ve missed it, here’s a timeline of our multi-day saga.
- Friday night – around 11:30pm I crawl into bed and notice that Gertie is still laying on the mat in our master bath, so I call to her to come to bed. She walks out of the bathroom and then just lays on her side a few feet from the bed on the wood floor. She looks a little uncomfortable, so I get up to bring her to bed and take a look at her. As soon as I crawl into bed with her, she pushes off me and squirms away. She quickly makes her way to the foot of the bed, and then the floor, squirming and dragging her hind end, and it’s obvious she’s in pain and discomfort, her belly is rock hard and distended, and then she starts hyperventilating pretty severely. The dogs had a late dinner (around 9pm) that night and I immediately suspect bloat because of the timing, her symptoms and behavior. I yell for Michael, who was sleeping in bed a few feet away, to wake up and get his keys. We were out the door within 5 minutes of when I’d first called Gertie to come to bed. We were in such a rush, I didn’t grab my phone, or a bra, and barely stopped to put shoes on. =\ We get to the emergency clinic around 15 minutes later. Michael called ahead, so they’re waiting for us and take her straight to the back. The emergency doctor wanted to rule out bloat right away and did xrays before anyone even talked to us (we had given them permission to do whatever they thought was necessary). They got her on IV sedation and in O2 and she calmed down. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong other than a belly full of gas and food, so her best guess was basically that she had a tummy ache, but they were going to observe her overnight to make sure the swelling in her airway resolved and follow up in the morning.
- Saturday morning – they called us to come pick Gertie up around 8:30am. Gertie seemed stable, and they examined her and she wasn’t responding negatively to any stimuli, so they discharge her with instructions to continue prednisone for the swelling in her airway from all the hyperventilating. We mentioned her diagnosis of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) a couple years ago, but she wasn’t showing any signs that she was painful in her spine. We go home and I hold off on feeding her because I didn’t want her to be backed up, plus she was still out of it from the sedation. We all napped on the sofa (me and the three dogs) and Michael went to the gym. Gertie woke up from a dead sleep around 11:30am, jumped off the sofa, and immediately started frantically squirming and hyperventilating again. Her stomach feels distended again, so I don’t hesitate and jump in the car with her to go back to the emergency clinic and call on the way so they’re ready for her.
- Saturday day – spent a very long, very frustrating day at the emergency clinic. They were busy, but it seemed they didn’t really triage her properly. The scariest thing is her breathing. When she starts that scary panting and hyperventilating, she can’t seem to get it under control on her own. I think it was over an hour before they actually gave her a sedative and got her breathing under control. I waited forever (at least 45 minutes) for someone to give me an update, and when they did I’d ask if they had her in O2 yet, or if she was breathing with her mouth closed yet, and they would beat around the bush and tell me they’re working on it. Then when the daytime doctor finally came in to talk to me, she told me that she had just given her sedation so she could calm her down while she came to talk to me to get her history, and I’m pretty sure she hadn’t read her chart from the night before until right before she walked in to talk to me (I could see her shadow under the door). It was pretty clear she was ill prepared and honestly sounded pretty unimpressive (that’s the nicest way I can put it). She started going on and on about what she saw in Gertie’s xrays, which I thought was good that at least they had already repeated xrays because I was suspecting bloat again and figured they’s want to rule it out and compare her images from the night before to make sure there weren’t any negative changes. Wrong! She was telling me about what she saw in Friday nights xrays. Like how the heck is that helpful?!? I already know what Friday nights xrays looked like….hellooooo the other doctor who ordered them Friday night already went over those when she took them ON FRIDAY NIGHT (facepalm). I mean, quit wasting potentially critical time talking to me and go get some freaking xrays to rule out bloat….jeez. So at this point Gertie had been there over an hour, she could possibly have bloat, and the doctor had only just then got her on IV sedation to calm her breathing down. I was not a happy camper. Sooo many more facepalm moments throughout the day with the front desk crew too (mostly from just watching them interact and ‘help’ other clients and give horrible, dangerous advice as non-medical personnel). I wait there all day to find out if they’re keeping her overnight, or what the new xrays show. I get no report on what the the new xrays show until they’re sent off to a radiologist for review. Usually you’re at least given a preliminary report of the xrays by the doctor who ordered them, but I guess she couldn’t be bothered, so I wait…..and wait….and freeze to death because it’s like 60 degrees in this clinic. Gertie is discharged around 5:30pm. We’re told to continue the prednisone, and add gabapentin for pain once she starts to perk up from her sedation. Even though Gertie didn’t respond to stimulation of her spine, they’re aware of her history of disc disease and suspect that she might have pain in her back, or just somewhere in her hind end.
- Saturday night – we get home from the vet and gertie is soooo out of it from the sedation. She was passed out on her back in my arms the whole way home, and this continues. I was exhausted from no sleep the night before and being at the vet all day, so I took a little snooze on the sofa with Gertie sleeping on my chest….eerily with her eyes open (CREEPY!). I’d wake up for a second and look down and have to check her pulse because she literally looked dead. She finally wakes up around 9. I carry her outside to potty and she still seems out of it, but as soon as I carry her back inside and prepare to make her dinner and give her the gabapentin, she starts freaking out and panting and frantically squirming around again like she can’t get comfortable. I yell upstairs to Michael “It’s happening againnnnnn….we need to get back to the vet.” I quickly try to get a gabapentin down the hatch to help with her pain, but she can’t get a hold of her breathing to eat anything, so set the pill (which is in a tasty pill pocket) on the counter and we’re out the door. By the third time we are total pros at this rushing to the vet thing. 😉 And thank goodness the night time crew and the emergency medicine doc that I really liked from Friday night (and previous emergencies) was back in the clinic. She immediately gets Gertie stable with her breathing, and is very frank with us and tells us she really has no clue what’s causing these episodes, but throws out pancreatitis, or some kind of musculoskeletal issue as the more likely possibilities and tells us she’s going to have a surgeon look at her Sunday morning while he’s there checking on his patients. We’re happy with this plan and know she’s in good hands. We get home around 11:30pm and literally as soon as we open our front door our cat, Odie, tumbles off the back of the sofa onto the hardwood floors, and then can’t seem to walk. He’s staggering, and even falling over every few steps. Just great. He otherwise seems happy and is hungry for his long overdue dinner. I don’t leave his side, and I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what the heck is going on. About 30 minutes later I notice the gabapentin stuffed pill-pocket that I had left on the counter before we rushed to the vet is now missing. Mystery solved. Our cat, Porky, had been prescribed gabapentin for arthritis before he passed but he was unable to tolerate it because he’d look like a drunkard and wouldn’t be able to walk straight or stand without falling, or having his feet slide out from under him. Odie was acting the exact same way, and had about twice as much Gabapentin as he probably should have. SO we take a wait and see approach, and he sleeps it off and is thankfully fine by morning. Whew!!! Crisis averted.
- Sunday morning – we get an update from the nightshift emergency doc (the one I really like bc I appreciate her ‘no BS approach’) tells us the surgeon examined Gertie and he definitively determined that Gertie was indeed experiencing pain in her spine. Not great news, but at least now we’re getting somewhere. They’re going to keep Gertie comfortable and transfer her to their Neurology team Monday morning.
- Monday morning – I get a call from the neurologist, who we’re thankfully already familiar with bc she surgically repaired Gracie’s herniated disc a few years ago. I had Gertie’s MRI from two years ago sent over the night before so it’d be waiting for the neurologist to have an initial impression of what she may be dealing with. We decide a new MRI is the best next step, which I was expecting and sort of hoping for. We just wanted to know exactly what we’re dealing with so we don’t potentially leave something catastrophic untreated. Plus I wanted to know how much Gertie’s spine has deteriorated since her last MRI. Apparently it was a busy weekend for neuro, so she wasn’t sure when they’d get to Gertie, which was fine. I get a call around 4:30pm as they’re wrapping Gertie’s MRI and she tells me Gertie has a significant disc herniation in her lumbar spine (can’t recall exactly which vertebrae, and I’m too lazy to go get the discharge papers at the moment). She prefers to do surgery, and wants to do it immediately, rather than putting Gertie under again the following day to do it. It’s always nerve racking having these guys put under, so I was happy we could get it all done at once. Plus she wanted to provide some relief for Gertie as soon as possible. I tell her to go for it. Then I wait the longest two hours ever, until she finally called to tell me all went well. Yay!!! What a huge relief.
- Wednesday evening – Gertie was discharged Wednesday evening, so we’ve had her home since then. All is going pretty well, thank goodness!
We’ve basically been down this exact same road with our fawn/white frenchie, Gracie. I was on a cruise a few years ago and Michael was home with the dogs. She broke out in hives Friday night, which is not normal for her, so he took her to the emergency vet in case her airway was impacted by whatever was causing the reaction. They treated the hives with steroids, which had temporarily masked her disc issue. She was okay Saturday, and then Sunday she started screaming in pain when she stood on her hind legs to beg to get on Michael’s lap, and then started pooping herself, so he rushed her back to the emergency vet and had surgery Monday. Gracie made a full recovery, so hopefully Gertie will have good luck too.
My thoughts on Pet Insurance
On a related side note: the running tab for this whole ordeal is now over $7,800, and this is the second frenchie we’ve had (out of four) that’s needed this surgery. The only way we can afford it is because we listened to other frenchie owners when we got Gracie, who was our first frenchie, and got really good insurance. Frenchies are generally just a giant, costly, pain in the butt to own, but I’ll probably never own another breed because I just love them to pieces.
There are a few great insurance plans out there, as well as some duds, so definitely read the fine print. We have Healthy Paws insurance and they cover 90% of the treatment expenses (minus the exam fee) for any non pre-existing illnesses or accidents. Healthy Paws has no lifetime, or per injury or illness limits, and we have a $100 annual deductible, which is usually met at the first appointment of the coverage year.
Amazingly when our late frenchie, Gilbert, was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition (mitral valve dysplasia) just after his second birthday, they still covered his treatment because the condition, even thought it was congenital, had gone undetected for two years. In about two and a half months his cardiology bills totaled well over $10k, and they covered all. of. it, so we only had to foot 10% plus some exam fees. They even reimbursed me for some over the counter meds that he needed. Gilbert was actually doing really well when he died after getting too excited about a toy I brought home for Gracie on her birthday. His heart was susceptible to irregular rhythms called premature ventricular complexes (or PVCs), so his cardiologist feels that he likely threw a PVC and was unable to recover from it. I don’t regret treating him for his condition because he was feeling great when he left us. Gilbert had been rescued from a puppy mill, so I’m also so thankful he wasn’t drowning in untreated congestive heart failure as a stud dog in some horrifying midwest commercial breeding operation.
Wow….I’m getting way off track here (I tend to do that a lot…sorry!), but my point is I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be able to medically treat our dogs the way they deserve without really giving the cost of the treatment a second thought. A lot of pet owners are forced to have to surrender their pets to rescues so they can receive proper treatments, or make the tough call to send them over the bridge, and that’s a really crappy place to be. Being in oodles of credit card debt from going forward with costly treatment isn’t ideal either. A lot of people think that pet insurance is a scam, but I’m here to tell you it absolutely isn’t…you just have to make sure you do your research and find a reputable company. Every year we’ve come out ahead with our plan, meaning they’ve reimbursed us for a greater amount than a year’s worth of our monthly premium costs.
We typically average one surgery, or one emergency situation per year with one of our three dogs, unfortunately, and usually just that one ordeal turns out to be more costly than what we spend on a year’s worth of monthly premiums for all three dogs.
When we purchased insurance, we truly didn’t think we’d use it much, but wanted to have it for when they’re all older, and heaven forbid come down with a cancer diagnosis, or some other condition that’s costly to treat. But in four years our insurance has covered these major issues:
- eye surgery and continued specialty care ($4k)
- abdominal hernia repair (over $1k)
- palate trim surgery and
- nares resection…basically Gertie had a nose job (around $1,500)
- two herniated disc repairs (roughly $14k for both surgeries and MRIs)
- over $10k in cardiology treatment
- routine MRI (over $2k)
- Gertie’s mysterious Thanksgiving episode/hospitalization (around $1,800)
- Plus several other less costly issues, $400-500 emergency vet visits, and other issues I’ve forgotten about.
So in four years Healthy Paws has paid out well over $34k in reimbursements since we started the policy in May 2015, which probably sounds crazy because most people I know don’t have to spend that kind of money on their pet(s), but usually that’s because the option of doing so just isn’t there. Or doctors never even get to the point of explaining these sort of costly, and more advanced treatment options because the average pet owner thinks it’s a ridiculous investment and make the decision to end their suffering, or keep them as comfortable as possible, as cheaply as possible, for however long the pet has. I totally get this reality. Especially for those who have kids to put through college.
I know our dogs are more high maintenance than the average lab or terrier mix, but we have a friend who rescued a lab mix puppy last year and Michael urged him to insure the puppy. Michael explained that it’s really a no brainer if you only have one dog, as the monthly cost of insurance is minimal in that case. Within a few months the puppy ate one of its toys, which obstructed the bowels, so it had to have surgery to remove it. He was so thankful to have that policy in place already. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
If anyone has any questions about our experience with our pet insurance, please reach out! Or if you’re thinking about getting your first frenchie, definitely reach out! I know of some great frenchie rescues around the country. 🙂
HUGE thank you to everyone who’s reached out and shown Gertie all the love while she’s going through this ordeal. We really appreciate it!