Thursday, December 19, 2013

Frosty the Woe Man!

Poor little Frosty! Last Sunday evening I let him and Chaucer out in the backyard and 15 minutes later he was at the back door, wanting to come in. I noticed something hanging out of his mouth and thought it was a dead leaf or possibly a dead mouse as it looked like it might be furry. I opened the door to investigate and to my horror it was his entire lower jaw skin hanging down! There was blood everywhere, including all over his chest and legs! Poor little soul came in and ran under the bed -- I'm sure it was instinct to go into his cave.
I called my vet, but being Sunday night I was referred to the 24 hour emergency vet in town. I gave them a fast call to let them know we were on our way. Frosty was a trooper -- so trusting, so obedient. I'm sure he knew I was trying to help him.

The vet was not sure she could save him due to the extent of the injury. His four lower teeth and the front bone beneath them had been torn out and the skin under his chin was pulled all the way back and danging down his chest. It was so severe that without knocking him out and examining him, she couldn't determine if his entire jaw was broken off in the back. Either an animal got him or he caught his chin on something and pulled back and ripped it out. At first we thought it was a jagged edge of fence board, courtesy of the pit bull that lives behind us who likes to chew the boards from the base up several inches. We speculated Frosty could have gotten his face in the hole and then caught his chin on a sharp protrusion. Now the vet is not so sure his injury would have been possible from wood. Maybe chicken wire or an animal? We'll never know. I've walked up and down that fence so many times this week, looking for signs, and had the gardener repair all the bad boards and make sure there was no wire in our back yard.  Anyway, back to poor Frosty.

The vet said she could try to drill holes, then wire and suture his jaw back together, but she wasn't sure it would work and that I needed to "make a decision." I love this little dog so much, he is so healthy and happy and this was such a freak accident, but if this was not repairable I also felt ready to make that decision for him. I called family members and talked to them over the phone, crying and trying to make sense of it all. Flashing through my mind was when my springer Kelli was in bad shape and I had to take her to this emergency vet -- they did $1400 worth of work and the next day we had to have her euthanized. I didn't want to repeat that and put him through surgery if the odds were against his recovery. I went back in and they put me in a room with the vet tech. I told her that I decided I should have him put to sleep. The vet tech looked at me with big eyes and said, "Why would you do that? This is repairable." She proceeded to get the vet. The vet went over her plan of treatment and told me it was risky, but she would try. I told her I needed to talk to my family again. She said, "No! You need to decide now! He needs treated." (More about her poor demeanor later.) So I took the risk and told her to do what she could do. Fortunately the jaw was not broken, except for the front part with the teeth that was torn off. We are hoping for the best. She said there was not much tissue in the front on which to attach any skin, so we really don't know how it will hold together when it is time to take the wires out. He'll have the stitches out in 2 weeks and the wires in 4+ weeks.  I left him there overnight and all day Monday, and picked him up Monday late afternoon.
One thing I noticed from the time I brought him home was that he could not drink water. He was accepting food by hand, but would lay by his water bowl and whine. It was so pathetic. I tried everything -- elevated the bowl, used a low rimmed bowl, put water in a ladle and held it under his chin, even put water in the palm of my hand to lap or lick. I called the vet the second night and asked if there could possibly be something wrong with his tongue mobility. She dismissed that notion and said there was no reason he couldn't drink. (She's the most abrupt, rude vet I've ever worked with.. I was hoping what she lacked in bedside manner she would make up for in surgery skills, but I'm not sure of that either.)  That night I put him up on my bed and I kneeled on the floor and tried to look up in his mouth. At this different angle I was able to see one of the wires sticking straight up between the lower canine tooth and the midline. No wonder he didn't want to drink! He would rake his tongue over that wire with each lap of water!

First thing yesterday morning I called the vet about the wire and she told me to bring him in at 1:00. The vet wondered if I knew where I could get wax for braces that she could put on over the wire. I made a trip out of my way to stop by the orthodontist I knew in town to get the wax. The vet said she would put him under anesthesia and then have me come into the exam room so I could see in his mouth and what she was doing. A few minutes later they called me in and he was laying belly down on the exam table with a tube stuck down his throat. The vet tech had his jaw wide open and his tongue pulled to the side. The vet was poking and prodding with her bare fingers and swabs, cleaning off the sutures in a brusque way. I noticed his breathing was very rapid and his eyes looked glazed. She was incredibly rough and I figured his little jaw with all the sutures and wires must be so tender. There were 3-4 wires sticking straight up in his mouth. I said, "No wonder he didn't want to drink," to which the vet replied, "Yeah, yeah -- I get it, I get it, I get!" (Snarky doesn't begin to describe her way of talking to people.) I heard him make some sounds, almost like he was trying to squeal but with the tube he couldn't. I found myself tearing up and said, "Ohhh, I think he's hurting!" The vet said, "No, no, he's not hurting. He's under anesthetic." She proceeded to poke around and explain the wires, and I heard him make another sound. Then the vet tech said, "Doctor, he's wide awake!" Then another vet tech walked by and mumbled something about how they had the wrong tube attached to the machine, she did a quick switch of the tubes, and they began administering the anesthesia through the correct tube. So he had not been out!  I was horrified, speechless! They asked me to wait in the waiting room and they would call me back in when he was under. I was so upset -- all I could think of was him having to endure having his sore jaw and tongue held open and all that poking and prodding. Didn't this vet know whether a dog was under or not? I sensed something was amiss when I walked in, based on his rapid breathing and look in his eyes, and I'm not even a vet!

They had me come back a few minutes later and there was a dramatic difference. His breathing was different, his tongue lay to one side on its own, he was obviously knocked out. She showed me how she had trimmed the wires way down so they weren't sticking up, but the ones on the bottom she had nothing to attach them to, so she bent them down fiercely against the bottom of his mouth, hoping they won't pop up again. She invited me to put my fingers in his mouth and feel how smooth they were now and I told her I hadn't washed my hands and didn't want to put them in his mouth, and she told me it was okay. Is that standard practice for her? She wasn't wearing any gloves, but I hoped her hands were clean. I was not pleased with this solution with the wires but she told me that was the best she could do and she hoped "they would hold." The ortho wax didn't work. There were little puncture marks on the underside of his tongue from when he had tried to drink and eat when the wires were sticking up. They put another IV in him to hydrate him since he hadn't had anything to drink since Monday, and also put another pain patch on his leg in case I couldn't get him to take his meds orally since he had gone through so much.

After an hour or so of recovery time, I was able to bring him back home, but not before letting her know that I did not think it was appropriate that she had sent him home Monday with wires sticking up in his mouth. She told me they were not like that when he went home, that she had bent them down, but because of the swelling going down and him moving his mouth to eat that they had "moved." I found this hard to believe, since he was afraid to drink even on the first night. She also informed me that I was "lucky" I got her -- that "none of the other vets in the practice would have known what to do for him." (Since then I have talked to several other people who would have recommended another surgeon in her practice that is supposed to be very competent and compassionate.)

Anyway, Frosty came in the house after yesterday's ordeal, went directly to his water bowl, and took a long drink. I have not seen him drink since, so not sure what that is all about, but he is eating well. I'm having to crush his pills and hide them in a variety of foods -- he catches on quickly, so I'm having to rotate through cheese, chicken, and various dog food flavors. He bled profusely last night and I called the vet to see if it was anything to be concerned about. I monitored it at home and it had stopped except for a little spotting now and then by this morning.

He had a really good appetite tonight and ate his food off of a plate instead of being hand fed, which is excellent progress. He also jumped off the couch, before I could catch him, trotted over to the front window and barked at the UPS guy! That's my Frosty!

He's spunky and I'm praying that he heals up quickly. 
Frosty, after devouring his dinner Thursday night!

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