1 month post op

31214581631_f829b69b64_c

As of tomorrow we are 4 weeks post surgery. Jersey is doing well. I’d say he’s about 70% back to his normal self– a 10% increase from this time last week. Slow and steady progress.

In the last week I became convinced that he had a UTI. I felt like he was drinking a lot, and peeing a lot. He has had two really gnarly bladder infections in his life, so alarm bells immediately started ringing & a called our vet first thing this past Monday to make him an appointment to be seen. He’s since been checked out and I’m pleased to report that his urine is clear. His vet suspects that the increased thirst is a side-effect of the meds that he’s on.. and the increased urination is a side effect of the increased thirst. She isn’t concerned. It seems I may have jumped the gun a bit, but I’m glad to have the peace of mind.

While at the clinic, I also had the vet take a peek between Jersey’s toes on his rear legs. Things have been a bit… funky…. between a couple of his toes, and I was concerned that he might have a yeast infection/over growth. The vet took a smear, had a peek under the microscope, and confirmed what I suspected. She sent us home with a medicated shampoo to wash his feet with once a day, for the next while. Hopefully it will clear up quickly! In the meantime, I’ll also be adding some plain yogurt to his meals.

31293168506_05c02f7ac4
“I don’t want to have my toes washed!”

With Jersey steadily doing better, the time has come to actively wean him off his meds. I have to admit– I’m scared. I’m terrified of muscle spasms, and of him being in pain. My anxiety about his well being is really quite high, and I can’t tell you how many hours I have tossed and turned at night worrying about this dear boy. But keeping him on more medication than he really needs, just for my own peace of mind is not fair (or healthy!) so it’s time to pull back. We will be doing it gradually, and keeping a discerning eye out for any indication that we’ve taken away too much, too soon. I’d love for him to be able to be off the muscle relaxant entirely in another week… But I really don’t want to jinx anything.

He now spends nights in his crate, day-times (when we are at work) in our secure, small  office area, and in the afternoons and evenings when we are home he is out in the living room with us for 50-75% of the time. At this point, we only crate him during waking hours when we have company over (too much excitement) or if Jersey seems a bit stiff/sore.

I’ve taken him on a few short walks, and he has tolerated them very well. No episodes of extreme discomfort or anything following. All good signs.

Over all, at 1 month post-op things are going well. In many ways this feels like it has been the longest month of my life… and in many ways this recovery has been MUCH harder than I anticipated it would be. However, when I think back to everything we went through in the first months following OSLO’S SURGERY, I remind myself that things really could be so much worse. Even though Jersey’s recovery hasn’t been as linear, or easy as I would have liked, we really are so fortunate with how it’s all gone.

31214579431_cbce607eb7_z

The Cost– a plea for insurance.

img_1093

I wanted to talk about something that I haven’t talked much about since Jersey had his neck/spinal surgery 3 weeks ago. THE COST. In total, Jersey’s recent experience at CanWest cost $10,200. That paid for specialist exams, diagnostics (which, when CT Scans & MRIs are involved can cost thousands), a cardiac ultrasound, soft palate surgery, neck/spinal surgery, ICU for several days, & all medications.

Do I have $10,200 laying around? No. No I do not. But because we are insured, we didn’t need it. Of Jersey’s $10,200 bill, we paid $1,700.

We would have paid less, however the Cardiac Ultrasound and Cardiac Exam was not covered by our policy as Jersey’s heart murmur is his one health issue which is considered “pre-existing”. No big deal though. $1,700! That’s ALL we were required to pay. Not only that, but Trupanion paid their portion (all $8,500 of it) upfront, so that we didn’t need to somehow pay it and then be reimbursed.

When Oslo had his spinal surgery 5.5 years ago, to the tune of $7,500, we were not insured. Not only were we not insured, but I didn’t even have access to $7,500 on even a credit card. The money DID NOT EXIST. I was forced to consider euthanizing my (then) 3 year old dog because I could not afford his vet bills. It was absolutely the worst day, most awful day of my life. I remember meeting with the neurosurgeon before we “made our decision” to hear from his mouth what our options were. A large part of me was prepared to say goodbye to Oslo that day. I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.

I promptly learned my lesson and got my boys insured. Unfortunately  because I waited until after Oslo had spinal issues to get the insurance, he is not covered in the future for anything spinal. That is now “pre existing”. However, Jersey was still a healthy pup so his coverage is excellent.

Fast forward to 5.5 years later. I am back at the same Veterinary Specialist with my other dog, for a similar surgery (only this time, it’s even more expensive). I am calm, I am collected, I am at peace. I have brought my dog to the best canine neurosurgeon in the country and I know he is in the best possible hands. Estimates for surgery are presented to me, on paper, totalling over $10,000. I look them over, giving that $10,000 figure barely a second glance, look the surgeon in the eye and say, “I want to do whatever you think is in Jersey’s best interest.”

The cost is completely inconsequential. The only thing that matters is what is best for Jersey.

As I pay my share of the $7,150 deposit (which is a measly $550, by the way), I smile warmly with the receptionists. We tell a few jokes. I marvel at how different this experience was from the last time I was in.

There are people who argue that insurance is a waste of money, and that pet owners would be better “diligently saving money every money” for unexpected health costs. That may be a wise idea if you have a dog who will never cost you more than a few thousand in vet bills over the course of the dog’s life… But simple math tells us that it is NOT the wisest choice for some breeds.

In Jersey’s situation, even if we had saved $100 a month, every month (yeah right! who is that diligent?) since he was 12 weeks old, we would have just $4,800 in the bank. Maybe a bit more if you add on some interest. $4,800 wouldn’t even pay for HALF of this recent vet bill!! Not even HALF!

…. And that doesn’t even mention the $1500 we spent in September on a bout of liver inflammation. Or the $2000 in July on a bladder & prostate infection.. And that is just 2016! I could go on and on and on.

Some dogs are unhealthy. Frenchies (and bulldogs in general) are notorious for have complicated and on going health issues as adults. It is my opinion and experience that the best possible thing you can do for your high-risk breed puppy is GET GOOD INSURANCE, and get it early. Don’t wait until they are sick with something, as that condition will no longer be covered (“pre-existing”) You must insure them when they are young and healthy.

I spend $220 a month to insure my two dogs. Is it expensive? Yes. But it’s worth every single penny. Even if I never made a claim it would be worth every penny. Being able to face a $10,200 vet bill and not even flinch. Being able to be concerned only with doing what is best for my dog, with no regard to cost makes insurance absolutely worth it. I cannot tell you how different my two experiences at CanWest were– one without insurance, the other with. I sincerely hope that none of you ever have to go through what I went through (and what Oslo went though!!) when we were not insured.

Please, please, please get insurance for your high-risk puppy today. It could literally be the difference between you deciding to euthanize your beloved family member, or getting them the life saving medical care they need.

 

3 weeks

jerseykitchen

Jersey is 3 weeks (and 1 day) post-op now, and doing well. I’d say he’s back to about 60% of normal. Eating and drinking continue to go well. We are feeding him a bit more each serving than usual in an effort to bulk him up. Those extra calories are starting to show, he’s putting on some of the weight that he lost, and looking good. He hasn’t had a spasm in 1 full week (knock on wood!).

He is still on pain meds & muscle relaxants 3x a day (every 8 hours) Yesterday morning I was thinking that I might try going to 2x a day instead… and then Jersey seemed to read my mind and ended up having a bit of a sore afternoon. Which told me that the meds need to stay right where they are at for now. Fortunately he medications he are on are considered very safe for extended use, so I plan to use them until whenever Jersey is ready to be weaned off– and not a moment sooner. My #1 priority is keeping this fella comfortable.

He really enjoys his time out of the crate, which is good.. but the downside is that he now hates his time in the crate even more. He’s started whining a bit when we put him in, which sends me into a panic because I always initially think that he’s crying because he’s in pain, so I RUN in to check on him…. And there he is, perfectly fine, just bummed out to be in the pen. Arggg!

The biggest challenge with Jersey being out of the crate, honestly, is Oslo. Despite being 3 years older than Jersey, Oslo is infinitely more crazy and high energy. He’s also a real asshole of a dog. Oslo’s favourite thing to do, it seems, is run full speed & crash right INTO Jersey. Of course this is dangerous for recovering Jersey, and not a behaviour that we encourage or tolerate! So, at the moment, Oslo gets crated when Jersey is out enjoying some freedom. I feel badly for Ossie, because I know he is just happy to see Jersey out and wants to play play play play…. But we just can’t risk Jersey being hurt by his bulldozer of a brother.

In the next week, my goal is to start getting Jersey out for (very short!) walks.  If he does well with that, we will be able to slowly increase the distance bit by bit. I think walks will do wonders for Jersey’s morale.

Low Level Light Therapy

Jersey had his first treatment with the Acupuncturist today. She actually opted not to do acupuncture at all today, figuring that instead he would get the best results if we focused on Cold Laser Therapy (or ‘Low Level Light Therapy‘) instead.

The word ‘Laser’ might scare some of you, but really it’s a painless procedure. A hand-held laser device is held, and moved slowly over a dog’s skin & fur. As it goes, it sends a warm (but not hot) beam of light into the tissue of the dog, which stimulates damaged cells, increases cellular function, and encourages quicker reproduction of new cells. This speeds up healing, reduces inflammation, increases circulation, and reduces pain. The procedure is generally quite relaxing and well received by dogs.

It can be used to treat anything from fractures, cuts/abbrasions, arthritis, musculoskeletal diseases, and all sorts of other things too!

MANY animals see great results from a few rounds of treatment… but the nice thing is that because it’s so noninvasive and gentle, with no known negative side-effects, there really is no harm in trying it out a few times to see if it works for us. Jersey seemed to enjoy the treatment (and the pets and attention he got while he did it!) and we’re looking forward to giving it another go on Friday.

 

.

 

thank goodness for muscle relaxants

31123803125_e8a916f79e_z

Since coming to the realization that the pain Jersey was experiencing was neck spasms, and starting him on methocarbamol (muscle relaxant) 3x a day, he’s done better. He has only had one small spasm since, and it was nothing compared to the enormous one I talked about in my last post. I don’t know about Jersey, but I am absolutely terrified of those spasms and am desperate to avoid them.

We have moved his pen into our office area, which means Jersey isn’t quite in the thick of the household activity like he was when he was in the living area with us. I think this creates more quality rest for Jersey (albeit a bit more alone time too).

In exciting news, I have found a local Veterinarian who does Canine Accupunture and Cold Laser Therapy. This is a HUGE deal! For those who don’t know, we live in quite a rural corner of British Columbia, and until now I was under the impression that the nearest vet who offered these services was 3+ hours away. A 6 hour round trip journey seemed like an excessive commute, especially if I would be transporting a delicate dog.

So when our vet mentioned that she may know of a doctor locally who offered these services, I almost cried. Accupunture is known to be extremely beneficial to dogs with Spinal Injuries & Disc Disease, and it’s definitely something I am keen to try with Jersey. It’s a very comfortable procedure, and the vast majority of dogs find it extremely relaxing. We have the doctor coming into our home tomorrow for Jersey’s first treatment. My hope is that it will help with his healing process, and maybe help bring an end (or just lessen) some of these awful neck spasms. Fingers & paws crossed!

31087446176_f5c05c4113_z
Oslo giving Jersey’s pen a 2 minute long play bow. “Come out of that cozy spot and play with me, brother! Look how fun I am!”

Neck Spasms

It’s been a day of ups and downs.

Jersey got his stitches out which was awesome. His incision has healed beautifully. This was our regular Vet’s first time seeing Jersey since she referred us to Canada West a couple weeks ago. It was great to see her and show off his progress. She said that he looked brighter and more full of life than he has in quite a while— which was awesome to hear!

The down side is that all the excitement of the car ride and the vet-visit seemed to be a bit much for Jersey. He came home and promptly had “an episode of pain”. This one lasted a solid 15 minutes and was particularly bad. I sat on the floor with him as he writhed in discomforted in my lap, and generally seemed miserable.

It was during that episode that I realized that these aren’t just “painful” episodes, but muscle spasms! That realization was like a light bulb going off. I don’t know what I hadn’t considered it before. He was having spasms prior to his surgery, but was crying out during those– and not during these.. So somehow they seemed like a different beast?

However, during the “episode” (spasm) tonight, as I was gently massaging and soothing him, I paid close attention to what his neck muscles where doing deep beneath all his excess neck skin– and they were spasming/twitching rather intensely & rhythmically. As the muscles slowed and relaxed, so did Jersey.

It sucks that this is happening, but at least if we know it’s spasms that he is dealing with, we can treat them with the appropriate medication. He’s been put back onto Methocarbamol (a muscle relaxant) for the next while until things simmer down. Hopefully now that we know that they are, and we can treat him appropriately, we’ll be able to stay ahead of those nasty spasms and keep Jersey more comfortable. I cannot over state how terrible it is to watch him have one.

Also! I did end up speaking with his Neurologist team about Jersey still being painful 2 weeks post op. I wanted to make sure that this is normal, and not a sign that the surgery has a failure or something. His doctors assured me that it’s completely normal for dogs (and people!) to be dealing with pain like this in the weeks following surgery, and that we need to give it more time.  So time we shall give, and muscle relaxants too!