Monday, October 31, 2011

The Dead Pile

OK, it's not just a catchy title, we actually have one. We have a box under the front desk where we put the deceased pet's files. I know it is gruesome, but it is a part of life here. We unfortunately lose a pet and by law we have to retain their records for 5 years. So we put them in a Bankers Box under the desk until the box fills up and then we get a new box. Further, I go through the box weekly.

I am not telling you all of this because it is Halloween, (which it truly is), but because it is truly true. I go through these files to see who has passed and to send out my condolence cards. I like to keep apprised of who has passed so I don't say something inappropriate to an owner, (I have done this before, not good). I also occasionally find a file of a particularly interesting pet that I want to talk about.

I went through the box yesterday and found "Skipjack." Based on my sailor background I like this name. It is a great name for a dog, especially a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. There was a time not too long ago where my husband and I were looking for a name for our then new cat, Jitterbug, and we went through all of our favorite nautical terms to find a good name. He liked "deadeye," "bollard," and "plimsal." I liked "dunnage" and "bowline." We settled on Jitterbug because we were making fun of each other getting old, and those phones they marketed to "old people" that the company presumed were too feebleminded to learn more than 9 buttons. (As I look around the Barnes & Noble I notice ALL of the patrons over 50 have iphones. Do they even sell Jitterbugs anymore?). Back to the point, I like his name, but I am not a big Chessie fan. I have yet to meet 1 I can do a full examination on. Now I know I am going to get arguments from many a Chessie owner. And "Yes, I know that your Chessie loves you, but they HATE me." It is hard to do an exam on a growling, hair-raised-down-the-spine-dog-already-more-than-it's-supposed-to-be dog. I have had to muzzle every Chessie I have met. Hence, I am not a fan. But OK, this isn't about me. The point of this post is to say that,

So I am going to highlight some things every owner should check on their pets. Especially if you have a pet that allows your Vet minimal cooperation.

Everyday you should check;
  • Eating. Is your pet eating the normal amount?
  • Urinating and defecating normally. That means looks normal, smells normal, done normally.
  • Gums for color. White is not the color they should be. I hope you look enough to know what "normal" for them looks like. And we are supposed to be brushing daily anyway. So brush and take note of gums and teeth.
  • Acting normally. The same behaviors, mannerisms, etc.
  • Ambulating (movement) normally. No limping, weakness, etc.
  • Standing, walking, sleeping normally.
  • I also do a overall body check everyday. For me I am primarily looking for ticks, because Jekyll sleeps with me and I don't like the idea of sleeping with ticks. But I also look for wounds, burrs, and painful spots.

If any of these are abnormal make a note describing what is different, for example, what? when? why? Are all good things to jot down. I think it is a great idea to have a place for all of your pets records, and a little journal in it too, to keep notes. Things like dates, time, number of occurrences, and what specifically you notice, really help us Vets figure out how to best treat your pets problems. A detailed accurate description could save you a lot of time and money in diagnostics.

Weekly you should check for:
  • Overall body size. I have hands that have been "trained" to identify an overweight/underweight dog. But you should also have your hands on your pet often enough to "feel" whether their weight has changed. A "BIG clue" in dogs with cancer is that they lose weight without their owners making any change in their feedings. In "feeling" for body condition we are feeling for the ribs, the spine, and the overall muscle mass. But we are also feeling for masses, growths, wounds, pain, lymph nodes, etc. 
  • I also think you should be checking, (or cleaning) ears, and
  • Trimming nails.

When Skipjack came in for his last visit he had lost 20 pounds.  He had gone from 90 pounds to 70 pounds. That is 22% of his body weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds, that is 44 pounds of weight lost. That is significant!. When he showed up for his examination and was weighed the Vet told his owners that he had lost 20 pounds and they had no idea. We see this a lot because a dense furry coat can "hide" a weight change. That's why we use our hands and feel every pet.

As it turned out Skipjack had lost weight because of his kidney disease. He had other clinical signs that weren't identified immediately because he was a difficult patient to examine. He had severe dental disease, (also because of the kidney disease), and was most likely urinating excessively (a urinalysis wasn't done so I can't verify this). There were a lot of clues that weren't as obvious because his health care providers weren't able to identify them. It is a challenge to spend more time and try to look harder in a patient that refuses to be a model patient. In these cases educating owners with "homework" and asking them to "take notes on their observations" can help identify problems earlier.

1 comment:

  1. I am very paranoid and keep an eye on everything with an eagle eye. This does include daily stool and urine observation/examination.

    Very good point about checking the whole body, just yesterday JD came home with a tick.