About a week before the workshop I was putting together at work, I came home around 6 pm. I immediately took Bubba for a short walk. When we got back in the house he puked a dark brown liquid onto the floor. Now, this dude pukes kind of a lot what with the car-sickness, so I had seen a lot of dog puke, but nothing that looked like this. My housemate, The Baker, who had been home all day with the dogs, told me that Bubba had puked the same stuff a few hours earlier. I looked at it, looked at him, looked at it, looked at him, and decided to look around the house for what he could have gotten into.
This didn't take long.
On the dining room table was a pan of brownies The Baker had made from scratch a few days earlier. The day before I had moved all of his baked goods from the kitchen counter to the dining room table to make room to cook. And then I forgot about it. And I also forgot that when no one's looking Bubba will use the window seat to jump on top of the table in order to shamelessly go to town on whatever food is up there. I have walked in on him a few times full on standing in the middle of the table eating something.
And then I left him out all day while I went to work.
The wax paper that was covering the brownies was off, but other than what looked like an irregular cut, or as if someone had just used a fork to eat one end of the brownies, it wasn't obvious that a dog had been eating them. Bubba must have just eaten from the cut edge all neat-like. He likes to cover his tracks.
So I took him upstairs and looked up how much chocolate is too much for a 12 lb dog. Five minutes into this, I realized it would probably be a good idea to have him near me so I could monitor him. I had him jump onto my lap, and then he immediately turned around and yakked over the edge onto the carpet. Now this dark chocolate colored and smelling liquid puke was going to stain the carpet if I didn't get it up soon. I got to cleaning and called Mr. Renaissance at work to have him continue the online research. At this point I wasn't sure how quickly I would need to get him to the hospital.
Every chocolate-per-pound-of-dog calculator online said his dose (~1/8 pan of good quality dark chocolate brownies) was "severe" and to "take him to the vet immediately". So I called the emergency vet. The vet said definitely bring him in.
So off we went. After hearing we were headed to the vet, Mr. Renaissance met us there. Counting once more in the car on the ride over, Bubba puked a total of 6 times in a few hours (this brown puke was easy to trace). Despite having never been to the emergency vet before, he smelled trouble and refused to go through the door.
So the vet saw him, at which point we learned that his heart rate was at 240 bpm. I wasn't sure how to judge this until I learned it's supposed to be about 150. His heart was beating so fast there wasn't time for it to fill properly. He was flushed, he was jittery, and he was "quaking". I told the doctor that Bubba has the shakes an awful lot for all sorts of reasons (he's part chihuahua after all), including being at the vet.
Given that he had already been puking a lot they thought inducing vomiting wasn't necessary, but they wanted to get an IV in to give him liquids, give him some valium to reduce his heart rate, and get some tests started. Given that Tina Turnher had long ago convinced me to buy pet insurance, I said "Do it".
The tests showed that he indeed had a severe level of chocolate in his system. Chocolate poisoning can not only kill a dog, but cause heart, liver, kidney, or brain damage. We decided to do the "textbook" treatment. I put a lot of stock in textbooks (literally and figuratively) so you know I was sold. The plan was valium, IV fluids, tests including an EKG, activated charcoal to soak up the poison, and a catheter to keep his bladder empty (the chemical expelled into the urine can be reabsorbed through the bladder walls).
After that was decided, along with a discussion of the bill estimate ($1900-2400), we went to visit him in the back in his little vet cage with a an IV, a purple bandage, and a cone, and then left for the night. He would stay at the vet overnight. Honestly, that was the scariest part.
When we got home I tried to be cool - he was being taken care of very well, and he is a dog after all. This was successful as long as Mr. Renaissance didn't try to discuss it or show any sympathy. He couldn't. So I had a mini-breakdown about the fragility of life, and how everyone I love will someday be taken from me, including this little guy. It's just a taste of the inevitable. Jesus, even now that's depressing. But true. And depressing. Let's stop this cycle for now, shall we?
Anyway, the next day we called and he was doing well, his poison levels had dropped, but he had still been dry-heaving pretty much all night. They did an x-ray and found a lot of dense pieces in his stomach that looked like they could be bone fragments. I told them, I guess that sounds about right. He steals his Rottweiler housemate's bones all the time and gnaws on them for hours. One time he got a bone that was about as big as he is back to his crate after eyeing it and plotting on it for months. They said this was probably irritating his stomach which is why he kept dry-heaving. It would likely pass through, but they'd have to keep an eye on it in case it all ganged up together and formed an obstruction. They planned another x-ray for that afternoon.
When I called after that x-ray they said the bone fragments passed through just fine. They said they wanted to keep him until he "was eating food and drinking water again". I said, "oh my god, he's not eating?!?!", because things would have to be seriously wrong for him not to want to eat. They said, "Oh, we just haven't offered him any yet". Well, say that then. Jesus. They said they wanted to keep him another night to make sure everything stays down. I thought that sounded a bit excessive, but you're the experts. I didn't go to vet school after all.
When I talked to Mr. Renaissance, who had also spoken to the vet that day, he called shenanigans. We were going to give it until later that evening, and if he was still doing fine we were going to take him home. He called the vet and told them this, in a very professional yet firm manner. I was so grateful. I don't have this ability. I either agree with what is going on, or I go fully indignant. That middle ground is tricky.
So we picked him up that evening, and he was acting a little weird. Just not quite Bubba. We had to feed him a small bland meal (cottage cheese and rice) four times a day and give him two pills (a preventative antibiotic because of the suture he needed to keep the catheter in place, and Pepcid AC to help settle his stomach) for a week. In the morning he was back to his old self. He must have still been on valium or something. And since he kept everything down, he didn't need to go back to the hospital.
So to recap:
- Don't let your dog get into chocolate. This was the first disadvantage of having a small dog. Small quantities of the no-go foods are dangerous.
- Bubba has now had an EKG, an x-ray, antibiotics, Pepcid AC, and valium, in addition to the Immodium AD that I had to give him when I first brought him home with the doggie flu. I've never even had valium.
- Pet insurance is awesome. His little chocolate episode cost $2700 in vet fees. I have paid $15/month for insurance since I've had him, plus a $200 deductible for this and 10% of its cost. So about $700 total. I win.
- Also, pets are expensive.
- Bubba isn't allowed to chew on his housemate's bones.
- In fact, he'll be kenneled a lot more when I'm not home. Because he doesn't understand that chocolate is not delicious.