Big Red Puffy Things

Today’s entry is threefold. I will discourse on three things puffy, two bad and one good.

I. Happy, Happy Birds (a bad puffy thing)

Bon Echo Park was filled with birdsong last week. I was pleasantly surprised, since it was already July, well past migration season and most of the nesting. It was quite clear, however, why there were so many happy, happy birds, and what it was they were singing about. The dear little peepers were whistling songs of thanksgiving for the abundant harvest. There was more than they could reap! No matter how much they stuffed their chubby beaks with mosquitoes, they could never quite catch them all. The cornucopia spilled into our campsite, our tents, our car, showering our arms and our doggies’ noses with shining red blossoms. We played connect-the-dots on our forearms with washable marker, we studied our star guide to determine how many constellations we could find on one another’s necks. We were beside ourselves with the joy of it all.

= = = = =

Evidence, laid out on a Cardi coaster.

II. The Eleven-Hundred-Dollar Pine Cone (a bad puffy thing)

Fergus dismantled a pine cone. He ate bits of it — I don’t know how much — while I wasn’t looking. I arrived on the balcony to see a mess that would do a red squirrel proud. That was on a Tuesday. On Thursday he was still throwing up, so we got him a morning appointment with our vet.

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“He ate a pine cone two days ago.”

“Hmm… I better run some blood tests, and take a few x-rays. Come and pick him up at 3:30.”

Five x-rays and some blood work and a bottle of antibiotics later, we were forking over more than half a grand for the diagnosis that Fergus has megaesophagus. Now I don’t have a degree in veterinary medicine, so at first all I could do was accept the verdict. I do, however, have a strong grounding in grade seven math, part of whose curriculum taught us about probability. The probability of a very rare disease, which is even rarer in Cardigans, showing up in two dogs within two years and both ending up in our home, is awfully slim; but apparently vets don’t need math.

I called Shelley anyway. She combed Cai’s and Fergus’s pedigrees to see if there were any hereditary link; she called her vet, and the provincial veterinary college, and me again, more than once. Her vet said Fergus’s esophagus was probably inflamed from the pine cone. Shelley also told me the signs of bloat, because I told her Fergus’s stomach was swollen. She also said she would like a second opinion.

Our vet didn’t say anything about Fergus’s big puffy belly. Our vet said Fergus would be fine going with us on our camping trip in three days. Fergus wasn’t fine. He threw up copiously all the way to Bon Echo, and gradually lost his energy (let alone his food and water). On the third day in the Park, we made an appointment with the Hastings Veterinary Hospital in the village of Stirling.

“What seems to be the trouble?”

“He ate a pine cone. A week ago. He threw up some bits of it, but he’s still vomiting.”

“His stomach is swollen and sore. His esophagus is probably raw from swallowing the pine cone, and remaining sore from the acid when he vomits. He’s really lethargic, too. May we keep him here for observation? Here’s what it would cost for the stay… and this treatment… or this…” Did I know a vet could consult with me ahead of time about costs?

The initial consult at this veterinary clinic lasted from 3:30 until ten after five! They had our vet’s record faxed to them, and dared to disagree with it. They kept Fergus in for two nights, IV-ing him and feeding him hourly. Gillian phoned them from the park payphone at 8:00, noon, and 3:30 each day; they supplied us with anti-vomiting pills already cut in quarters, another med, five cans of low-residue food, and their detailed care record decorated with two puppy stickers. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and professional. And Fergus was so happy to regain his puppy exuberance, his formerly floppy left ear was now up!

We were much more willing to pay this clinic’s fees, which were lower than our own vet’s for about twice as much care. Besides, they got the diagnosis right. Hastings Veterinary Hospital, in our opinion, is stirling.

= = = = =

III. A Big Red Puffy Heart (a good puffy thing)

While we were away in the woods, Dennis the Vizsla sent me a Big Red Puffy Heart. Dennis is such a sweetie! He also sent Shelley one, which is probably timely, seeing as she had the worry of little Fergus added to her usual routine.

I’m supposed to pass this on to five other bloggers, but I would really like to give one to the folks at the Hastings Vet Hospital, just because I can.

As for the other four… Shelley and Goodbear got one from Dennis, and Eyegillian got one from Shelley, and not all my fellow blogsters really go for the sentimental mushy stuff, so there remains:

  • Alyson, who deals with all things mushy: leftover cereal, chook poo, dog drool…;
  • Livingisdetail, whose work is always from the heart; 
  • Checkers, because if you squint at it the right way, the heart could look like a squeaky toy or maybe a ham sandwich;
  • and
  • The Aged Cat. Just because.

9 Responses to Big Red Puffy Things

  1. goodbear says:

    “the diagnosis that Fergus has megaesophagus.” and then i a lost all the feeling in my feet. i’m so glad he’s better. i was about to drive to canada and demand the vet recheck him!

    cheers to hastings!

  2. jamesviscosi says:

    That’s one expensive pine cone! Glad the second vet did such good work for you and Fergus. Poor little guy!

  3. Alyson says:

    Aarghh! The vet thing is so frustrating when it is so clearly shown how effective functional vets can be. I feel for you. And I thank you for the puffy heart – as usual, your timing is excellent. Hope Fergus feels better soon, and remembers that pinecones aren’t a food.

  4. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks, Goodbear! I think I’m angriest that our vet was so ready to impugn the name of an excellent breeder. Shelley lives two hours from us, but she and her husband had an appointment in Toronto on the day we got back from our camping trip, and she was ready to go to our vet’s to discuss their diagnosis. Luckily, all we had to do when the four of us got together was have supper at the local tikka restaurant.

    Thanks, James! And if twenty-dollar squeaky toys and nylabones keep him happy and safe, I’ll never skimp on them ever again!

    Actually, Alyson, pine nuts are a delicacy, so it might be argued that Fergus has impeccable taste — until he’s seen settling down with a dirty stick, or scarfing a two-day-old weiner in the park. Puppies. Sigh. As for the vet thing, we’ve had our vet for over five years now. I would switch, except we won’t be in Toronto come Spring, so we might as well hold off and part amicably. But when we move, we’ll look for someone more like the folks at the Hastings hospital!

  5. Mutual friend Jane says:

    We use an excellent practice in Leaside and I’ll give you the name if you wish.
    I think your vet was too quick to think that an incredibly rare condition could strike twice, especially as none of Shelley’s other dogs have ever had a problem.

  6. lavenderbay says:

    Thanks for the reference, Jane.
    I think there’s a question here of “Ockham’s Razor” too, Jane. If Fergus has been vomiting since he swallowed a pine cone, why wouldn’t we be checking for pine cone trauma?

  7. livingisdetail says:

    I am soooooo glad you got a second opinion lavenderbay and that Fergus is OK, poor little pumpkin. I was feeling quite shocked when I read that diagnosis and checked again to see if I had transposed the names of your dogs. I understand how stressful it is when your dog is sick, let alone second guessing the vet. This is actually a really good cautionary tale.
    Hey, thanks for the red puffy heart award and the lovely compliment. You are a gem lavenderbay and as Alyson says you do have impeccable timing.

  8. […] has had quite the adventure this past week, getting quite ill as a result of dismantling a pine cone which upset his stomach and […]

  9. lavenderbay says:

    Whoa, sounds like eastern Australia has been having a lousy week! I hope you two, in your respective lives, are okay now.
    For me, the worst mistake of my vet was dismissing Fergus as good enough to travel, especially into the middle of a provincial park three hours from home! I said I wouldn’t change vets just now, but I’m still mulling it over. Fergus has a routine exam tomorrow (Wednesday) morning; then we’ll see.

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