Breathe Easy: This One Has A Happy Ending

, , , , | Healthy | September 16, 2019

(My dog has developed a swollen face, is vomiting, and is not her usual, rambunctious self, but not lethargic. Although I’ve had dogs most of my life, I’ve never had a dog with such symptoms. It’s late in the day, just before they are due to close, but I call my veterinarian’s office for advice. She had a Bordetella vaccine just a few days ago so I think it might be related and mention that. After I explained the symptoms and asked about any relation to the vaccine:)

Receptionist: “I don’t think it’s related to the vaccine, but let me check.” *a few moments of silence* “No, the vet doesn’t think such an allergic reaction would happen at this point. It’s been three days and any adverse effects generally are seen with the first few hours, not longer than 48. Besides, the Bordetella vaccine doesn’t cause anything like what you’re describing. If you’re concerned, I can fit you in at the next available appointment. How about Tuesday at 10:00 am?”

(I’m calling on a Thursday.)

Me: “Um, did you say allergic reaction? Do you really think I should wait almost a week to have something like that checked? By then, I’m sure she would be already recovered or dead! Maybe I should take her to the emergency vet?”

Receptionist: “Well, the face swelling usually means the pet is on the way to recovery from whatever set it off, but yes, possibly an allergic reaction. If it makes you feel better, we can see her at 8:00 am tomorrow, but leave us a voicemail to let us know tonight or first thing in the morning if you won’t be coming. She should be fine.”

Me: “And if it gets worse, I’ll take her to the emergency vet; either way, I’ll let the office know if I don’t need that appointment.”

(My dog did appear to be improving, with the swelling decreasing. She stopped vomiting and started acting more energetic, but I didn’t call to cancel that appointment. Close to midnight, she started almost frantically pacing, madly shaking her head every couple of minutes — maybe something in her ear? — and couldn’t get comfortable to sleep. She generally sleeps on her own blanket at my feet on the bed but finally, about two am, she settled down wrapped around my head, laying on my pillow with her head on mine, her nose next to my ear. Soon, her breathing became soft and her usual light snoring started, and I dozed off myself. I was suddenly jolted awake a few minutes after four am and I quickly realized that, even though her nose was next to my ear, I couldn’t hear her breathing! I quickly sat up and turned to check on her. She was not only not breathing, but she was totally limp like a rag, no muscle tone at all, and she felt somewhat cold to the touch. I quickly moved her to an accessible position and started chest compressions, with no response, and I started bawling, calling her name, and berating myself for not taking her to the emergency vet. That woke my husband up and he, too, acknowledged that she appeared to be gone. He reached out to touch and caress her limp body and pretty much instinctively, I think, also squeezed her chest. And her head moved, very slightly. Imagination? Wishful thinking? No, it moved again and she started breathing again! It took several minutes but she recovered enough to pull herself to her blanket and she almost immediately fell asleep, gently snoring. She slept; we didn’t. I kept that appointment, but by then she was not showing any remaining symptoms at all, except for a bit of residual swelling. After questioning why we hadn’t given her any Benadryl –I wasn’t instructed to and didn’t know to do so — the vet explained that the head shaking was because the swelling makes the ears “not feel right,” that her ears were then perfectly clear and her temperature and color normal. I’m not sure the vet believed what had happened earlier, but he noted it all in her file. My pup was given injections of Benadryl and steroids to fight off any remaining toxins, but didn’t have any further issues. We still have no idea what caused such a dramatic allergic reaction, but it’s suspected to be a bug or spider bite from the back yard. Now, we keep Benadryl in the medicine cabinet and have instructions that if she begins to show any similar symptoms, no matter how slight, we are to give her half of a tablet and take her to the emergency vet immediately. And one veterinary receptionist is probably in a heap of trouble for his casual reaction to my very real concerns.)

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