We have been laying low this week because we have had health challenges and needed to focus on getting better. And I've struggled a little with how to share this because I want to share but I'm still so angry I'm not sure I can write about it coherently. I'll give it a go...
Argus and Sapphire are senior greyhounds. Sapphire is 11 and Argus is 13. Argus has arthritis and we have done everything we could to maintain his comfort and flexibility without going on medication. The meds can mess with the liver and I wanted it to be a last resort. So we do frequent short walks to keep him flexible and they have "orthopedic" beds in every room of the apartment. These are high foam beds with a soft, fluffy dog bed on top. Both dogs also have free access to my bed and the couch. That isn't necessarily part of the arthritis therapy but it becomes relevant later in the story.
Argus is a little shaky in the hips and shakes a bit when he gets up from laying down. But he likes to run on his potty walks (he bunny hops which is another sign of his arthritis) and he does full, long stretches, dances and spins and pulls me around when we are walking. He jumps up on the couch and jumps out of the car and manages stairs fine.
In the last 4 months there have been a couple of incidents that made me decide it was time to add medication to our pain management program. The last incident being the weekend before last. I had a bag of dogfood in the back of the car and the dogs were anxious to get out before I could haul it inside so I let Sapph jump over it and it looked like Argus had navigated around it successfully but at the last minute he placed a back paw on it to push off and slipped and fell out of the car.
He fell pretty hard and it was upsetting to us both. He didn't have many visible injuries (I'm sure he was badly bruised) but he did have one small raspberry (about the size of a nickel) on his fanny where there isn't any padding. I cleaned it and it had almost healed completely by last Friday.
Friday was the day I was flying to Arizona for a family gathering celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. I had arranged for Sapphire and Argus to go to a favorite boarding place we have frequented in the past.
It is a lovely place. Dogs get their own "house" that is climate controlled and has a doggy door out to their own fenced yard. It is a treat for Sapph and Argus because we don't have a yard and they don't get to go out whenever they want. And we were having a gorgeous weekend so I knew they would love the opportunity to play outside.
I dropped them off and drove straight to the airport. When I landed in AZ I had a message from the boarding place saying Argus had fallen down and while he walked OK, because he had fallen they wanted to be careful and took him to the vet.
I called the vet back and we had a long conversation about how he was doing. She described how he was acting and I said it sounded like stress (he hates the vet) and she agreed. Then I told her how he was before and that I wanted to do whatever we needed to do to get him better. She wanted to do blood work. Did I want to do the little panel or the big one that told them more? I said I wanted to do the bigger one because I wanted to look at everything to make sure this was nothing more serious than his arthritis. I told her how I had intended to make an appointment on that following Monday to look at managing his arthritis pain.
Then the vet said something funny. She wanted to talk about his pressure sore on his fanny. I explained that it wasn't a pressure sore, it was a raspberry from the fall, etc.
Sounds OK, right?
I flew back late Sunday night and was at the vet when they opened Monday. When I told the gal behind the counter who I was picking up she got a funny look on her face which worried me. While I waited I paid the $400+ bill they had for me. I was concerned when I saw on the bill that no x-rays had been done. I know we spoke of arthritis but when I told them that the day before he was admitted he was fine wouldn't you have ruled out an injury?
It would break your heart if you saw the condition of him when they brought him out. He was stress panting beyond any stress panting I've seen him do and there was a little gal holding his back end up with a sling so that his back legs couldn't touch the floor. I was alarmed with how she was letting his back end swing side to side and up and down indiscriminately. Greyhounds have long backs and often their arthritis is in their back as much as their hips. That had to be painful for him to have his back wrenched around like that. Not to mention freak him out.
The little gal throwing his back around began to lecture me about his bed sore and how he needs a soft place to rest. I interrupted her and told her it wasn't a bed sore and he has orthopedic beds all over to use. He has nothing but soft places to rest. All the techs were quiet and gave each other smug, knowing looks. Then I realized that everyone had made judgments about my treatment of Argus, and regardless of what I had told them, they treated him based on their factless judgments. It didn't seem to phase them at all that they were giving me back a dog that couldn't even walk anymore. Somehow, they were blaming me.
Little gal (who was really in danger of getting smacked by me) walked him out to the car with me. I lifted him into the car and gently laid him down on his bed and blankets in the back of the car. I see at this point that his raspberry is almost twice the size and crusty/bleedy. He obviously scraped it again when he fell and someone shaved around it but it doesn't look very clean. I hotpack wounds like this so they don't get that crust going that can break painfully and bleed because they aren't flexible. They had just cleaned it once and left it.
I skeedaddlled out of there as fast as I could talking to him all the way. We picked up Sapph (who, by the way was allowed to run around in an unfenced area so now I'm mad at the boarding place too) and just headed home.
When we got home, Argus was able to walk from the car and up three little stairs to our front door. First chance he got he peed. He obviously had not been taken out yet that morning (it was after 10am) and his urine was orange which means he was dehydrated too. I was flipping out at this point. When we got inside he tried to drink water but was too stiff to even raise his head a little so I put the water on a milk crate for him. Then he went to lie down but couldn't so I had to lay him down (which upset him, he hates being manhandled).
I took a closer look at him and found fecal matter on his legs and belly as well as crusty stuff all over his face (Ensure?). He looked like hell.
I hung around for a while to make sure was OK, after about 2 hours everyone was asleep so, I slipped off to work. I was only gone 4 hours but when I got home, Argus had tried to get up, fell down and I found him stuck in that position lying in a pool of urine.
Argus is one of those that almost never has accidents in the house. He is fastidious.
Four days later, his pain medication has been cut in half. We do have him on anti-inflammetory meds which was my original intention. He is on antibiotics for the "pressure sore" but I continue because I'm worried he might have developed a little UTI since they obviously didn't take him out to relieve himself frequently enough.
He is walking fine, getting up and down from his bed well and he gave me a half stretch yesterday morning. He is engaging with me and his surroundings, which is a relief. When he was hurting so bad he didn't look at anything, didn't sniff anything, he was just focused on his pain. He can bring his head up to eat his food just fine.
I did find quite a bit of blood in the kitchen last night and I can't tell who it came from. Neither he nor Sapph have blood anywhere on them that I can find. I was even checking myself since I thought I was the only one in there. Who knows where this has come from. Maybe a nose bleed? It worries me.
The final story is that Argus is almost back to normal. He improved a lot when I sat down with him and cleaned him up. He really hates looking bad. The day after I cleaned his face and fur, (I didn't dare put him in the tub so he got a "sponge bath") I came home and he was sitting up in his bed (a huge victory at the time because at first he couldn't even sit up on his elbows) with his front legs crossed looking for all the world like Noel Coward.
While I'm livid at this veterinary hospital for insulting me and disregarding everything I told them about Argus. I'm most upset that because of this they didn't give him the care he needed. When I ran my hand across Argus' back I felt a hot spot. His back is obviously a problem and needs attention. And if I could find that then why didn't they? He was with them all weekend. They were so busy judging me and deciding how I must treat him, they really ignored obvious symptoms.
I'm also upset because I think basic needs he had were not met. C'mon...water? Potty breaks? These were too much for them to provide?
And then, in general, vet hospitals do not seem to be set up to deal with geriatric dogs. Even if he had been given the medical attention he needed, he still would have been kept in that little kennel which is a big reason, I think, he was so stiff and sore. Also, older dogs need to go out more frequently. And they need some kind of industrial mats for the dogs so they don't slip on the linoleum floors.
That fall-back to medication isn't enough to combat his arthritis. As his condition when he went home proves. He has been given half the medication while at home but his special needs are accommodated and he has improved 150%.
A lot of people say I should give this feedback to the hospital so it doesn't happen again but I really don't think it will be received in the spirit it is offered. OK, some of the spirit is pissed off. Argus should never have had to go through that. They should be ashamed.
Maybe I'll gather information regarding arthritic dogs and their special needs and send it to them with a note that says something like, "Look, you did what you could to help Argus but you hurt him too. Here are some of the things you can do to meet the special needs of geriatric dogs."
I should mention too, that this is actually a really good hospital and some of the best vets I've ever met. They have a stellar reputation, especially for greyhounds. And our vet who we normally see there, who was on vacations while all this happened, called and left a message saying he saw Argus had been in, he is sorry the old guy didn't feel well and wanted to check on him. I love this vet. But I can never take Argus back.
So what do I do? Communicate what happened to the vet? Send a hit and run note with arthritis information? Move on and don't look back? I'm open to suggestions.
Argus after treat.