Whole Dog Journal's Blog November 9, 2016

Listen to Your Gut When It Comes to Your Dog - and Act on It!

Posted at 09:22AM - Comments: (21)

Last week, I was stressed with too many demands on my time, and trying to finish the December issue in time to travel to Florida for a dog trainer’s conference (Pet Professional Guild, http://petprofessionalguild.com/). But Woody (my adolescent dog) and even Otto, my 9-year-old solid (canine) citizen, were both telling me they needed a run. So, instead of taking them out for an hours-long hike, as I prefer to do, I headed for a school field I know, to throw a ball for them for a while, instead.

A friend called a little while before I left and asked if I was walking that evening. When I told her my alternative plan, she asked if she could meet me with her dogs. Sure, why not?

I brought a Chuckit and a Chuckit Glow ball. Woody strongly prefers tennis balls, but he’s developed a bad habit of chomping on them so hard that he splits them open within minutes, and then they don’t fly far. He hasn’t been able to tear or chew these rubbery balls, and the fact that they glow in the dark means I can run him at night and still find the ball if it takes a crazy bounce.

My friend got to the field at the same time I did, and unloaded her two dogs. The larger dog is not particularly interested in fetch games, but her little terrier/Chihuahua-mix is. For the first time ever since we’ve met, my friend brought a small tennis-style ball for her little dog to chase, and a tennis racket with which to hit it. My brain registered this fact, and I said to myself, “Oh crap. I’ve got to keep Woody away from that little ball.”

The offending ball

Given that the field belongs to an elementary school, I was distracted by watching the three dogs in my care, and my friend’s two, to make sure that none of them pooped out of our sight or attention; it’s simply not acceptable for dog poo to go unnoticed and un-picked-up on a school field.

I was also trying to throw Woody’s ball in the opposite direction than my friend was throwing the small ball for her dog. But twice, my distractible dog was returning to me with his big ball in his mouth when my friend hit the small tennis ball for her dog, and Woody just dropped his ball and ran in pursuit of the little one. And at almost this same moment each time, one of our dogs squatted and pooped. I ran in pursuit of the poop, but I was forming a sentence to call out to my friend. “Hey!” I was just about to say, “This isn’t a good idea; Woody is going to choke on that ball!”

I got as far as “Hey!” And Woody promptly swallowed that ball. We had been on the field for about four minutes.

The good news was, he didn’t choke!

I thought I had better go home immediately and investigate. How big, exactly, was the ball he swallowed? Could he pass it through his system? If I gave him some hydrogen peroxide to make him vomit the ball back up, could he choke on it then?

I asked my friend to investigate the package of balls she had at home. What were the ball’s dimensions? The answer came back: the ball was 1.65 inches in diameter.

I called the emergency veterinary clinic, and discussed the matter with the receptionist. He, too, was concerned about the likelihood of Woody choking on the ball as it came back up. I dropped off my other dogs at home, and headed for the clinic so I could consult with a veterinarian, not just the receptionist.

It was a fairly busy night at the clinic, so I had time to do some googling in the waiting room. I found one veterinarian’s site that helpfully said that a medium-sized dog could easily vomit up anything that was 1.5 inches in diameter or smaller, but that anything bigger might require surgery or endoscopy to retrieve. Oy! How exasperating!

Also exasperating: Two weeks ago, while watching this exuberant young dog fly through the air and contort himself in crazily athletic maneuvers while fetching, I decided I really better buy pet health insurance for him. I just can see him pulling and ACL or hurting his back. I chose an insurance company and a plan, and sent them money for a year’s worth of coverage. The company responded quickly, and sent me a letter of acceptance, indicating that coverage would commence . . . three days from the day I was sitting there in the veterinary ER waiting room. ARGH!

When Woody and I finally got into an examination room, and a veterinarian finally came in – so much for the fetch session being faster than a hike!  – we conferred about our options:

1: We wait and see if he vomits the ball on his own. (I rejected this plan right away. I was leaving town in three days for almost a week. With my luck, he’d vomit and choke while I was gone. No way.)

2: We make him vomit that night at the clinic with the vet standing by, ready to deal with a potential blockage if the ball gets caught in his throat on its way back up.

3: We give him general anesthesia, and use an endoscope to remove the ball from his stomach. The starting cost: $1,500. Ouch.

4: Surgery. I didn’t even ask about the cost of that.

I chose option #2. It wasn’t just the money. He swallowed that ball so easily, I just thought it would come back up fairly easily, too. After I made the choice, the veterinarian told me she thought this was the option she would take if it was her dog; she had confidence that even if the ball got stuck, that she and the other veterinary staff on duty would be able to get it out.

She also said that because Woody hadn’t eaten since that morning, she would feed him a can of wet food first, so there would be some soft mass helping push the ball out of his stomach.

The vet took Woody into the back, and I went out to the lobby to plug in my dying phone and pace.

It didn’t take even 10 minutes. Apparently, vets don’t use peroxide like we do; they use an injection (a $100 injection, lol) to induce vomiting. He vomited three times, and the ball was in the second batch.

Then they gave him an injection of an anti-nausea drug, to stop the vomiting, “so he doesn’t splatter your car on the way home.” That shot was $80!

I shouldn’t grouse about the money; I’m so happy to have a great 24-hour clinic not far away, and happy it turned out just fine for Woody. It was simply a costly lesson in “If you see something, say something . . . FAST!” I had a bad feeling about that little ball, but didn’t act on it quickly enough. That’s just one more mistake I’ve made with a dog that I never will again! And I hope that none of you who are reading this will make this mistake, either!


Comments (21)

Yes Pet Insurance is great. You save money in the long run, because inevitably they get something. I have had multiple dogs for 25 years, currently 4, and throughout the years we have dealt with numerous financially challenging illnesses. Our pointer mix never developed the enamel on her adult teeth as she had a traumatic injury requiring a leg amputation while a puppy (before we adopted her) which interfered with full dental development. Her teeth were all bonded courtesy of pet insurance, at 90% coverage. We have also dealt with congestive heart failure, lymphoma, mast cell cancerous tumors, ACL tears and fractured tails which both required surgery, plus your run of the mill illnesses such as giardia, hot spots, hypothyroid, etc. Even if the insurance doesn't save you money over the long run it lessens the blow; making it easier to swallow a $5,000+ bill when you know that you will get a good portion of the money refunded to you.

Posted by: kimfatty | November 27, 2016 6:01 PM    Report this comment

Your insurance should cover this anyway, even though it is before the effective date, because it was an emergency. Years ago I had just adopted a third dog who, just days after I purchased pet insurance for him, picked a fight with our resident male over a chew bone. The senior resident proceeded to bite him in the head which required an emergency visit and surgery to close the wound, plus antibiotics, etc. The insurance company (VPI) covered the emergency visit as though the insurance had been in effect on that date. So submit your claim.

Posted by: kimfatty | November 27, 2016 5:46 PM    Report this comment

I'm not a vet, only a people doctor, but you can give a kid a dose of ipacac for five cents to make them vomit, and a dose of Zofran for $.10 to make them stop. I am amazed though at the disparity between medication doses for dogs and people. Many of the same drugs can be used, but you've got to know the right dose.

Posted by: vboisen | November 14, 2016 1:06 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, I know people will probably kill me for this rude comment - but learn to say NO! You KNEW Woody was a) tennis ball crazy and 2) super-prone to puncture them. Here this "friend" turns up with a little one (maybe smaller than normal) since she has small dogs.

You simply HAVE to say you can't use that tennis ball with Woody around. (I have a dog who will steal & DESTROY your ball) OR WE cannot play with you & have to leave. This is esp TRUE when managing multiple dogs (with NO HELP) from your family members. I never run or walk more than 1 dog at a time, if I am alone and off my property.

Posted by: Betsy | November 13, 2016 6:18 AM    Report this comment

After reading Consumer Reports reco that pet insurance isn't worth it, I chose not to get it. WRONG. My dear Moonshine has subsequently been diagnosed w/an arthritic biceps condition requiring weekly acupuncture and may eventually require surgery. In hindsight, I think their reco is for people who don't take great care of their dogs.

Posted by: Dogladie | November 12, 2016 5:58 AM    Report this comment

I changed insurance companies, but didn't get around to signing up right away. Then Addisons hit my dog before the two weeks waiting period was up. I have many, many years of monthly shots and periodic testing, not counting the initial testing, many thousands have already been spent. My fault. Be warned. Don't procrastinate.

Posted by: DonnaE | November 11, 2016 10:53 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, so sorry you and your dog went through this. Years ago my then border collie ate a mango seed. While waiting for the emergency vet to give us an appointment I contacted a vet who, while now a marine mammal vet, had been a farm vet. This was my husband's idea as he was terrified she would die in surgery. His office helpfully contacted him out in the field - in Belize - and he, amazing guy that he is, called me at my home in Hawaii. He told me to try hydrogen peroxide. Said that that was what they used all the time on farm dogs.

I dosed her. Nothing happened. I dosed her again. It frothed, coated her stomach and throat. She spit out the seed. She was running around happily by the time the emergency vet called back with the surgery appointment. While I would not advocate this to anyone, and a dog can always choke, it is something owners might want to try in a vet clinic rather than first resorting to shots or surgery. I was terrified it would cause her problems. It didn't. There were no side effects at all whereas she might have died in surgery. It all depends on what the size and shape what they ate. But I do encourage everyone to discuss it with the vet and be certain that the dog needs the more invasive care. Sometimes, when appropriate, the simplest really is the best.

I also used hydrogen peroxide when another BC ate a bird. Again took two doses but up came the remains and she was no longer able to claim "wasn't me!".

Posted by: HawaiiGal | November 11, 2016 9:54 PM    Report this comment

We will have a new article about pet insurance in the first quarter of 2017. In the meantime, current subscribers can access our back issue articles on choosing pet insurance in the April 2009 and September 2015 issues. -- NK

Posted by: Nancy Kerns | November 11, 2016 1:26 PM    Report this comment

I'm an incredibly huge loyal fan and follower of WDJ. You've gotten me through 18+ years of life with big dogs. I've got countless back issues but don't recall you ever doing an article on Pet Insurance. Please do! It's ever so overwhelming trying to sort through all the fine print on one's own. Especially for those of us who're financially challenged. I'm on permanent disability but desire my dog's safety. Thank you.

Posted by: kpmoore66 | November 11, 2016 1:19 PM    Report this comment

So sorry for the confusion. THE vets don't use peroxide AT ALL. They used a drug called apomorphine. -- NK

Posted by: Nancy Kerns | November 11, 2016 10:54 AM    Report this comment

Please explain 'injected' peroxide

Posted by: Dnnmccrd55 | November 11, 2016 6:24 AM    Report this comment

I no longer use tennis balls at all for the dogs. I've heard of far too many disaster stories;

Posted by: Jenny H | November 10, 2016 4:01 PM    Report this comment

I have had pet insurance since the first month each of my dogs joined the family. Friends have told me "you're crazy to pay that every month...they're healthy...you could just put that money aside in your own account every month.." Well, there is no guarantee they will stay healthy, despite your best efforts. You could put the money aside in a "pet account", but almost no one does, and if they do, they also see it as a place to "borrow" for unexpected other expenses and perhaps repay, but rarely do. I was grateful I have insurance when my older dog had laryngeal paralysis and we could ok the $4,000 to $8,000 surgery knowing that 90% would be paid by insurance. He recovered well and has continued to live a healthy older dog life. My younger dog has recently been diagnosed with lymphoma and I have been able to give her the chemo treatments that will ultimately cost $5,000+. Without insurance I would still have made the decision to have both of them treated, but insurance removes the risk of having to make a health decision on a monetary basis. I researched the best insurance option for me and my situation and selected Trupanion. Everyone needs to make an informed decision on what company and options work best for them--but decide and do it--it alleviates at least one layer of stress when our furry ones are injured or sick.

Posted by: Alexpal | November 10, 2016 2:34 PM    Report this comment

has the journal done any articles comparing pet insurance? I would sure be interested in some advice!

Posted by: Boss | November 10, 2016 12:41 PM    Report this comment

I did not have insurance and from that point on I will as soon as I get a new dog. I truly believe that if I had had insurance and a different Vet I would not be in the financial pit I am now in and he would still be with me. I maxed out all of my credit cards and a good chunk of my retirement. I was so distressed by him being ill and all the different "solutions" which meant bottles and bottles of pills, capsules, powders, shots and treatments that did not work. The money and bills kept pilling up and I tunnel visioned just getting him better. When he finally died and I am still crying and kicking myself over that, I realized there was no way I could pay all of these credit cards and bills. i turned over everything to a Debt Relief Co. who promised that everything would be over in three years. In the meantime they continue to take out $400+ of my income....I am on Social Security and a very limited by now retirement fund. I still have a rescue dog who is very healthy and I threaten him to not get sick. He is too old to get insurance and I can't afford it now anyway.
So a hard lesson to learn. GET INSURANCE. and sock some money aside for emergencies. Wish me luck and say a prayer. I would appreciate it. I have never not paid a debt or bill and this is just killing me inside.

Posted by: Knyles | November 10, 2016 12:24 PM    Report this comment

I had the exact same problem with an insurance policy and a cat. Took him in for a well check (which would not have been covered) two days before the insurance kicked in. And the vet discovered an eye problem and sent us to a Vet. eye doctor. Eventually the eye had to be removed. Not one penny did the insurance company pay for that eye condition.

Posted by: Margaret Park | November 10, 2016 12:11 PM    Report this comment

Our Sheperd loves to steal everything. His favorite is grabbing anything he can out of purses. 2 wks ago he took my bottle of excedrin out of my purse which I thought was put up high enough out of his reach but he was able to grab a strap and open it just enough to fit his muzzle in there. I knew I only had a few in the bottle but couldn't take the chance since 1 excedrin can do damage to his stomach. We called vet to see if we should give peroxide and they said yes. We had to do 3 dosages before he started to vomit. Thank goodness he didn't swallow any. I no longer keep them in my purse.

Posted by: Moe the greatest sheperd thief | November 10, 2016 12:07 PM    Report this comment

I have insurance for both of my dogs. Thank goodness. The elder has had abdominal surgery twice for ingesting inappropriate materials (we are good dog parents but she is FAST!). You're right. You don't want to know what it costs. Now she is being treated for lymphoma. We could not have afforded any of these treatments without the insurance.

It is NOT cheap. But it's worth it. Just investigate thoroughly to see which plan is right for you and be aware, the price does go up (pretty sharply!) as your pet ages.

Posted by: Phee | November 10, 2016 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Glad for the good ending, sorry about the cost, gulp! You did the right thing.

Posted by: Carell@egan.org | November 10, 2016 10:53 AM    Report this comment

So, what insurance DID you choose?

Posted by: Kitsumama | November 10, 2016 10:52 AM    Report this comment

This is great advice. I have a GSD who loves to chase balls, I have always used the large rubber chuckit balls. I don't t use tennis balls because he can bite through them and the cloth is abrasive to his teeth ( he likes the carry and chew them.) Oh and pet insurance is the best way to go for any of your pets. As they get older it comes in handy..

Posted by: Jill and Eli | November 10, 2016 10:23 AM    Report this comment

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