Monday, January 19, 2015
Smooch's work-related stress disorder
Spoiler alert: I know some of you will worry as today's story unfolds, so I will tell you now that it ends well.
Our story begins the weekend before last. Smooch awoke in the middle of the night and barfed. No big deal. Dogs barf all the time. The next night, Smooch awoke twice in the pre-dawn hours and asked to go outside. Each time, she ate grass for a few minutes, then came back inside. No big deal. Dogs eat grass when their stomach is a little upset. The next night, same thing. Up twice, still eating grass.
She was otherwise being her normal active self, alerting me to the ever-present coyotes, digging holes, and playing with her toys, so I wasn't too concerned. I started adding some pumpkin purée to her meals, knowing it could help whatever digestive upset she was experiencing. We went on our daily two-mile walks and all was right with the world ... until this past Thursday.
Smooch and I left the house about noon. The snow was melting fast, but Smooch and I persevered down the muddy road and remained upright. As usual, Smooch stopped and sniffed every coyote and rabbit track we crossed, tugging me from one side of the road to the other. Think water skiing on mud. About a half mile from home, I felt all the energy fall out of Smooch's leash. She stopped and lay down in the mud. WTF? It was almost as if she were too weak to stand. After a minute or so, she got up, then we turned around and headed straight for home. I considered carrying her, but she seemed willing to walk on her own. A few minutes later, she pooped. It was not pretty. I will spare you the details. During the rest of the walk home, I formulated my plan for the afternoon: get home, call vet, drive to vet, hope the truck doesn't get stuck in the mud on the way out.
We made it home, with my concern elevating each time Smooch stopped to rest. The second we arrived on the back porch, Smooch did a downward-dog yoga pose, which she held for about a minute. What was that about?? When I tried to wipe off her muddy paws to come in the house, she cried out in pain. I let her in the house with muddy paws.
I called the vet, got an appointment for 2:15, and we left right away, stopping only to bag a fresh poop sample from the backyard. The usual 30-minute trek to the highway took 75 minutes because of the mud, but we didn't get stuck. I told Smooch that if she ever gets sick again, she has to promise to do so in better weather.
The vet tech examined Smooch first and I gave her all the details I've just shared with you. We reviewed her diet, her environment, and her daily routine. Then the vet came in and we reviewed all of the same stuff, while the tech went off to test the poop sample, which turned out to include all sorts of bad bacteria that wasn't supposed to be there.
Since Smooch's diet had not changed, nor had the stuff she has access to in her environment, the vet ruled out any sort of dietary indiscretion. Then she asked me, and I quote, "Has she been under any unusual stress lately? Have you been packing boxes? Have there been alot of coyotes around?" Alot? How about a pack of nine every day for a couple of weeks?
The vet told me that the stomach is the dog's stress organ - it's the first thing to react when a dog is under a lot of pressure. I had no idea. Since the timing of Smooch's stomach issues and the daily coyotes coincided, the vet is relatively certain that stress is at the root of the problem.
She gave Smooch a shot of cerenia to calm her stomach and sent us home with an 8-day supply of metronidazole (an antimicrobial antibiotic) and a couple of cans of Hill's w/d, which she described as "pumpkin on steroids." She said I could expect to see daily improvement in Smooch's health, which I have. Yippee, hallelujah, and amen.
Until the daily coyotes disappear, which I expect will happen once mating season concludes, Smooch shall be a full-time house dog, though what she probably needs is a vacation cruise someplace warm. Oh wait. Maybe that's me.