I nearly lost Joey today.
On Monday, I took Joey (12-year-old Pomeranian x Chihuahua with a heart murmur) to the vet for a consult about an ear haematoma. For those who don’t know, a haematoma is a blood-filled swelling that is caused by excessive scratching (usually due to some irritant like an ear infection), which causes a blood vessel to burst, which in turn causes the blood to fill the surrounding tissue like a balloon. The vet booked him in for today (Wednesday) for surgery. This is the normal treatment; the haematoma is opened with a small incision, and the top layer of the ear is then stitched to the bottom layer to prevent the tissue from filling up again.
I dropped him off at the vet this morning, and discussed the possibility of removing the upper front teeth while he was at it. (Joey’s previous owner didn’t look after him properly, and he lost his bottom front teeth when he was six due to the long-term effects of poor nutrition in his developmental stages. As a result, his top teeth had become unevenly worn, and would require removal at some point to prevent feeding problems, infection, and nerve exposure). The vet agreed to do this if there was time; his surgery schedule was quite full, but he agreed that minimising anaesthetic at Joey’s age, with his heart murmur, was wise. To do both in the one surgery would mean avoiding an additional anaesthetic at a later date, thus minimising risk.
He had his surgery this morning (haematoma lanced, polyp on the other ear removed, plus one tooth removed), no worries. I picked him up from the vet, and he was coughing. I queried this, and was reassured that it was just a reaction to having a tube down his throat during surgery. In the car he appeared to stop breathing altogether (no sound of breathing, no chest movement), but after a moment he started coughing again, no worries. I kept an eye on him, but didn’t worry about it too much because I trust this vet.
I got Joey home, and he staggered around a bit and wanted to go outside, so I let him out and he peed, no worries. Then he sniffed around his food bowl. The vet had said he could have a light meal tonight if he wanted, so I gave him a small amount of the dog fritz (this has always been the advice, and there’s never been a problem with it before). He struggled to pick it up (due to the bucket), but seemed otherwise fine. To get around the difficulty, I held it in my hand and let him eat from that.
No worries, I left it for a bit and he had had no negative reaction, so I offered him some more. He stood there, eating from my hand, then suddenly stopped, convulsed, and collapsed.
I yelled for BB to help, and opened Joe’s mouth, where I found food stuck in the back of his mouth, blocking the airway. So I stuck my finger in to dislodge it (never do this if you can’t see it clearly and/or it’s in the throat itself; if it’s in the throat itself, push behind the jaw and slightly under with your thumbs to try and dislodge it from the outside or you could push it in further and make matters worse) and he chomped down.
So I quickly took the bucket off, pried his mouth open with my left hand, and stuck my right pointer in again to dislodge the food. BB was out of his room and dialling the vet by then, but Joey’s eyes were beginning to cloud and he was completely limp. He wasn’t even trying to bite me any more. I got the food out, made sure his throat was clear, and pumped the side of his chest. Thankfully he started to breathe again (I’ve done doggy CPR before, but I’m not a big fan of mouth-to-snout resuscitation, it’s just gross!). A few minutes later the clouding was gone, and he was drowsy but aware. BB hung up the phone (maybe he hadn’t yet dialled, I don’t know) and fetched the betadine for my finger.
Joey’s fine now, breathing steadily with his normal wheeze, but that was too close. No more food for him tonight, and I have him where I can keep an eye on him and react quickly if necessary. He’s gotten up and walked around since, though, so he should be okay.
I’ve done post-op care for dozens of animals in my time, and never had anything like that!