August 21, 2016. A Sunday morning that started out like any other Sunday morning with Mako. We would roll out of bed, power up for the day with breakfast, and because it’s August in North Carolina and the weather is insanely beautiful, we walked. I lived pretty close to Lake Jordan at the time, and walking the pups to the lake was about 1.5miles there, they got to play in the water, and then 1.5miles back to dry off! The perfect August day! Especially when it ended with puppy snuggles and a nap! Mako loved these walks. Look at her face. The joy radiated from her. She was so happy. This picture was taken the morning before everything changed. Before everything went scary. Mako got up mid nap. Awkwardly at that, dry heaved some, and then spit up some water. It wasn’t full dog vomit, so I wasn’t really concerned as of yet. I figured she had drank too much lake water, nothing to be worried about. Except that there were small black pieces of plastic in her spit up. Concerning… a little, but not 100% omg lets go to the vet.
Now let me back up to Thursday August 18, 2016. I came home from work to let mako out of her crate, and to what I originally thought was throw up in Mako’s crate, I came to find out really quickly was actually a whole in her crate where she had chewed threw her crate bottom!! Are you catching the drift here, Mako LITERALLY ATE her CRATE!! YESSS! HER FREAKING CRATE! The plastic they sit on. Mako got bored or anxious, or hungry for that matter and thought, I’m gonna eat this. I bout lost my mind, like why?! Turns out that’s not all, the next day she ATE MORE of it! How much you ask?! well see for yourself!! A huge chunk right out the top base of the the crate bottom!
Now, I’m not telling you this, so you will run out and buy some crazy expensive indestructible crate, but I do want to keep you aware that the plastic in these wire crates isn’t the safest material around! It isn’t indestructible and dogs, larger dogs who chew, can chew through them! So Please keep this in mind! The websites will say these are a safe place to let your pup spend 8+ hours a day, and it’s a misconception. Mako had no anxiety issues prior to this whole thing. And I have to say and Emergency Room vet visit and week long stay with strangers can really trigger a pup. She not struggles with me leaving, she hates meeting new people the first time around, and we still have a lot of issues every time we turn the corner into NC State. I will talk about crate options sometime soon, but note, Apple Bitter Spray can protect your pup from chewing the crate bottom! Please invest, if your dogs a chewer! Talk to your vet too, if you notice any signs of anxiety as well.
Now back to Sunday. So following the minor spit up. I fed Mako that evening. Her appetite was still there. She was starving! Straight up engulfed her food! Like always Mako attacks the bowl. She’s kind of a skinny fat kid. Another sign, not to be worried about the minor spit up. the crate must be passing, whatever, I won’t worry. Well, again, I was wrong. Within thirty minutes, her entire meal was on my carpet. Along with it, pieces of plastic. Yes, I investigated the vomit. I’m a pet parent and we do what we got to do. I called my friend and asked her to pick me up a can of pumpkin and a bag of rice and some milk, cause I was gonna go to the store, but didn’t want to leave Mako! I didn’t feed mako the rest of the night but let her have water and boiled rice for the morning. Rice always settles her belly. At this point I just wasn’t sure what to do. I googled online about bowel obstructions, and what I could do, and a suggestion online said bread. Apparently bread (or cotton balls) can stick to the item and help it to pass. I wasn’t sure if it was too late in the game for this, but it was certainly worth a shot!
The next morning (Monday) I was getting ready for work. I gave Mako a chance to potty and her stool was normal, to my surprise. I felt this was a good sign. Something must be passing through her intestines if that’s all normal, right?? I fed her some rice with one slice of bread, hoping and praying we were through the worse. When I left that morning I left a key under the mat, and text pretty much everyone I knew in Raleigh, to see if they could check on Mako. A friend of mine at the time, finished class around one and went by. He didn’t let her out of the crate, because Mako had only met him once or twice, but when he went by he told me she hadn’t had any form of accident in her crate. I was so excited for good news. A weight felt lifted from my shoulders. I was able to concentrate at work and get back to what needed to be done. I got home around 5pm, and was crushed by bad news again. Mako had thrown up the rice along with the bread. I could feel the weight on my shoulders again. Everything was heavy. I let Mako out and she just slowly came over to me. She wasn’t excited or anything, she was sick and I could tell. I started to clean up her crate and told her everything was going to be ok. Then I heard the worst noise come out of my dog and I knew I had to do something to help her. Mako ran around my dining area (that at the time had no furniture and was her free area to run), and made a noise that resonates in my ears to this day. She whimpered in pain and then stopped about a foot in front of me a threw up what to me was a bowl of water. As if she released everything she could from her body to get out what was causing her pain. I immediately dialed my vet.
At this point I was in tears, I didn’t know what to do. I’m crying on the phone, they answer. “Hello… I’m sorry, I’m crying… this is Mako’s Mom, Kellie, She’s in pain where can I take her, what do I do??” “ NC State Emergency Room, Take her now.” I clean up what I can of the throw up and I get Mako and her leash and we get in the car. I call my mom hysterically crying on the phone. My mom tries to call me down, telling me that Mako is feeding off of me and I need to not be upset. I need to stay calm. I try to calm down and make it to NC State. When I arrive, we walk in and the ER receptionist asks me what I need and I tell her that my dogs in pain, she ate her crate recently, and she’s been throwing up for the past 24 hours. A Nurse come out, starts taking notes on her gloves of everything that has happened in the last 48hours and takes Mako back. I didn’t see Mako again for another 3 Hours. At the time I thought that was the worst 3 hours of my life! Sadly, I was wrong.
When the Doctors came and talked to me, they told me that Mako’s X-rays don’t really show much. To the right you see her on of her first set of Scans. The doctors told me that with foreign bodies such as plastic or socks, non metallic objects, the vets must rely on gas patterns. A blockage shows gas building up, like its trapped. To the right, they didn’t really see much, other than gas being bale to move through the body as normal. So they couldn’t really say whether or not anything was causing a blockage and where. At this point they told me I had three options. 1. The most risky and least advised: I could take her home, watch her overnight, and most likely be bringing her back tomorrow. 2. The most cautions and most advised upon: Leave her overnight, and pump her with fluids with observations, and a second set of scans in the morning (Fluids can help to swell the organs and tissues, which can help to push out a blockage) Approx. $1000, or 3. The least advised and also very risky because they don’t have much to go on except my word that she ate something: Surgery Approx $3,000-$4,500. WHAT?? Well ok, I have literally no idea, first of all i’m freaking out at this point. I can’t afford surgery, and omg maybe fluids will work? maybe she’s ok. I don’t trust that she will be ok coming home tonight. Ok, I called my mom, talked it over with her, and we made a judgement call. Mako is my lifeline and we have to what we can to save her life. We went with fluids. I felt good with NC State monitoring her and maybe this would open her intestines and help pass the crate.
Well, they called me the next morning (Tuesday) and told me her X-rays didn’t show much change and that Mako could come home following a meal. Below are her Day 2 Scans. I came to pick Mako up after work around 5ish and when I did, the ER vet came out without Mako. Something was up!! Apparently every hour Mako was getting an abdominal exam to note any pain or improvement. Mako received one before she ate, and one after she ate. The ER vet noted Mako winced in pain after she had eaten. Which made him sense there was an underlying problem. He told me they could do fluids again or I could take Mako home on a Green Card, meaning she would need to be brought back first thing in the morning for X-rays. When I thought the nightmare was over, our worst fears were starting to set in. I told him I couldn’t afford fluids just for her to throw up on the floor again. I would take her and bring her back. Mako was pitiful. That night she and I slept on the floor with a towel. She slept, I stayed awake watching her. It was extremely miserable.
3am. The typical point in the night where a dog wakes you up and vomits everything from their stomach. As a concerned parent, I inspected what was on the towel, thank god she made it on to the towel. What did they feed her? Full sized food, Ol’ Roy? Not her typical Kibble thats for sure. It didn’t even make it into the digestive track. I felt so bad for her. At this point Mako hadn’t even eaten or had a full nutritious meal since Saturday. My heart hurt. She was so pitiful! We snuggled close the rest of the night and first thing that morning, I rushed her over to NC State. I met with the ER doctor and told him what happened. He took her back and I left Mako again. Little did I know I wouldn’t see her for another 24hours, then again, I think deep down I knew we were at the point of surgery. Her third set of Scans were completed and I got a call from the ER doctor with a sense of urgency. Mako needed surgery. An estimated cost of $4500! My immediate reaction was YES! He asked me if I needed to talk it over or call someone and I told him no, that I knew what I had to do, that Mako was important to me and I couldn’t lose her. Do the surgery. Save her Life!
I called my mom frantically. She didn’t answer. My sister was at work. My other sister MIA. I called the one person I knew would answer. I called my Nonno. He answered when he heard me through the answering machine. My grandparents are always there for me when I need them. My Nonno helped calm me down and let me know that everything was gonna be ok. After getting off the phone with him, I immediately applied for the care credit card (which by the way is incredible, I will discuss more below!!) I had to have a way to pay for this and I had to do it fast. While applying, the vet called and confirmed that they were good for surgery. I was a little frustrated because I obviously had already given permission and thought they had started. Around 5pm, as I was leaving work, I got the call the Mako made it out of surgery! Phew! She was in the ICU and in recovery. I wasn’t able to visit that day but could schedule a time on Thursday with the Student working her case.
The doctor did tell me this though! Mako didn’t just ingest crate pieces. Mako had ingest two very large crate pieces, one of which had passed through her intestines and one that was in her stomach. The kicker was that they were attached by a piece of string or rope. ROPE TOYS another very dangerous toy that Mako no longer plays without major major major supervision! Basically the problem was one piece of plastic was trying to exit the body one way while the other was fighting to exit the other way. Kind of a freak accident!! But still something to be very worried about!
Visitation Day was by far the best day. It was only third minutes, but it was the best thirty minutes of the week. I missed my girl so much. Sleeping in bed with out her all week was soooooo awful. But seeing my sweet girl was the highlight of the longest week of my life. She was sad though, she had tears down her face and was shedding from all the stress she was under. She was wrapped in a bandage that held her timed medication monitor on and also her wounded area. Mako was weak but she was so excited to see me. They asked that I try and get her to eat. Because the sooner mako ate, the sooner she was able to go home. I talked with her. I tried to get her to eat some. I told her if she ate, she could home. I comforted her. I took selfies. I face timed my mom. We cherished every bit of our little meet and greet. When the doctor came back, Mako jumped into my lap. My heart ached. She didn’t want to go. But I knew she had to. She would be home soon. Mako was a fighter and she was doing amazing. I told her to eat her dinner and that she would be coming home soon!
Mako came home the next day. Post op was a little unusual. Discharge instructions weren’t exactly the best, but I wasn’t also really aware that I shouldn’t have walked Mako the way I did. I made Soft Tissues aware of what happened. And let them know of ways they can improve their services, they are a teaching hospital after all!
Mako developed a Hematoma Seroma, which is a mass at the staple sight that leaks. She was prescribed a medication that helped to dry it up and after three weeks in the cone, all was healed. 40 staples. 10 inch scar. and a little bit of traumatization and anxiety and here we are. But I’m not really here to talk post op. So let’s talk about what you can do to stay ahead of all of this. What can you do? What options do you have as a pet parent??
Staying Ahead of Your Pet’s Health:
Option 1: Pet Insurance! - There are so many options out there! SO Many! I’ve actually considered a few and originally went with Embrace. About a year ago though we switch before Mako developed anything serious and I already was aware that her allergies were pre-existing. FIGO Pet insurance has actually been incredible. (which I will go into full detail about our experience with them, in Part 3!) However, for a medium mixed breed dog, we pay $45.00 a month for 90% coverage and a $250 deductible for up to $10,000.
Option 2: Care Credit! - Not all vets take this so keep this in mind, but major vet hospitals, like NC STATE and the VSH in Raleigh I believe do, My vet, City Vet also do! Every vet is different but most do 6 months no interest! which is pretty good for smaller bills. And it’s better than nothing! Great place to start. I applied for this when Mako had surgery, and was approved on the spot, basically tell them what you need for surgery, and you can get approved. (at least that’s how it was for me.)
Option 3: Crate Options: Impact Dog Crate: This isn’t really affordable unless you pay this off over time. I bought the collapsible crate, and its been incredible!! Mako actually feels safer in her crate than she ever has in her little metal crate she was in before. Impact dog crates, are aluminum based crates and designed to protect your dog from themselves, in a car accident and so much more. They have crates designed for high anxiety dogs and more. They do have a cheaper version of the crate, and I believe it just as sturdy and reliable as the more expensive ones. But it is not designed for dogs who have high anxiety. HIGHLY Recommend if your dog chews on the crate!
FOUR Things I do to Stay On Top of Mako’s Health: What Warrants a Vet Visit and What doesn’t?
24 hour Rule: Throwing up! OMG. Scariest thing of my life and will literally wake you out of your sleep. But notice the signs, what’s been going on? Did they eat something weird? Is there means to be concern? Don’t rush to the vet if they are still eating, if they are still drinking, if the attitude in your pup is still normal, watch for signs of lethargy. Still throwing up after 24 hours, good sign, you probably should see the Vet!
Whimpering: Now this is something you have to be careful with. I’m not saying every time your dog cries at the dog park because they ran into the fence or another dog and they whimper take them to the vet, there’s always a chance for a strain and your dog could just need rest! (happened to me before and omg I do not have money for the vet over a strain, rest up sweet girl, no park for you.) But if the injury isn’t improving, or you notice it seems worse than it should be, as in your dog can’t even walk, there’s an open wound, or again the 24 hour rule and lethargy, use your best judgement. You are the advocate for your dog! AGAIN I HIGHLY RECOMMEND PET INSURANCE. but again pet insurance is a know your dog basis. I can explain further, but just let me know if you have questions.
Lethargy: What is your pets normal activity level? Mako’s changes all the time, but sick Mako is whole other ball game. If your pup loves meal time and then refuses to eat, problem. If your pup won’t drink water, problem. If your pup is alllll kinds of lazy and their attitude is literally you when sick, problem. Signs of lethargy aren’t just science. It’s knowing your dog. Advocate for your pup.
Coughing: Wow this ones been big lately and a lot of pet parents I know have had an issue with it. If you’re up to date on vaccines for kennel cough/ bordetella, don’t freak out. Try warm water, lemon juice and little honey for sweetness. have them drink or use a syringe to get it right into their throat! Mako had a slight cough and this worked wonders!! Not healing a couple days or improving, see your vet!