Very recently I had an experience that I simply must share. It’s a little off-topic, but so important that I had to talk about it.
This is Olli:
Pretty cute, huh? I know, she’s adorable. Olli lives with me and has since she was a runt puppy that no one wanted. She’s a tiny little thing, weighing in at only 10lbs, 10 ounces. She’s six years old, and she’s been my partner-in-crime ever since she arrived at my house. My pack (I am fortunate enough to live with 6 felines and 3 canines) and I have a strong bond to be sure, but Olli and I have something different- a little special. I am her human as she is my co-pilot.
Olli has two other canine sisters that live with her and we all hike, jog, and take walks (3 canines, 2 humans) together. Last weekend was no different. We all suited up and headed out the door for, what I believed to be, a typical walk. We got about half-way and Olli started to scream. This wasn’t your typical, “Ow!” type of scream- this was non-stop, high pitched and continuous.
I’m going to stop here because I want to say that as soon as Olli started to scream, my heart started to go a million miles an hour. I am an extremely empathetic person (read: Emotional Tornado type of gal) and so I was instantly set on high-alert.
We immediately turned around to come home. The other dogs were extremely distressed, as Olli still had not stopped screaming. I was no more than five minutes away from my house, but it seemed like 20. On the way home Olli began to vomit. I was able to get the other dogs home quickly (Olli remained w/her other human because she was still vomiting). I took off their gear, grabbed some towels and I ran back out the door. I put Olli in some towels and we raced to the emergency vet, breaking every traffic law you can imagine. I’m not proud of that, but my dog was seriously ill. During the 15 minute car ride, she vomited again and released her bowels- then went unconscious. At that point, I knew it wasn’t good. We called the emergency vet on the way to let them know we were coming- and they met me at the door to take her in for an immediate evaluation.
All of this took place in 20 minutes. Long, stressful, teary-eyed tale made short, Olli had gone into “anaphylactic shock” from (what I can only assume) a wasp or hornet sting.
Anaphylactic Shock is a severe allergic reaction that, if left untreated, causes seizures, coma, and death. Anaphylaxis targets the liver. Signs develop almost immediately, usually within minutes, after the dog has been exposed to the allergen. The first signs of anaphylaxis usually include:
- Sudden Diarrhea
- Emptying of bowels (defecation/urination)
- Severe itchiness & development of hives
- Excessive drooling
- Shallow, rapid, and/or difficult breathing
- Pale gums (tacky)
- Fast heart rate
- Poor pulse
- Cold limbs
Anaphylactic shock is almost always fatal if not treated immediately. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, take him or her to a vet immediately.
I wanted to tell you Olli’s story because I learned so much from it. If you had asked me if I was prepared for a pet emergency, prior to Olli’s sting, I would have said yes. But was I? In a real emergency situation you are forced to deal with any lack of planning. Don’t let a random tragedy remind you that you could have been more prepared. Here’s what I learned.
- I knew that I needed to get my animal to a vet. I know which vets are in my area, where they are located- but I don’t have them all programmed in my phone. I have my regular vet information in my phone, but my vet wasn’t open during Olli’s emergency. I had to call information to get the number of the emergency vet I was driving to- which is a nightmare when you are in a high-alert situation. Now, I have all the surrounding vet offices programmed into my phone, including the hours that they are open. Not only are they programmed, they are also a “favorite” so that I can find them easily and quickly in cases of emergency.
- Do you know how to get to the closest vet office? Do you know what routes to take or back roads? Do you know how long it takes to get to each one so you know which one is closest? You should.
- My regular vet has a medical history on Olli because they have been seeing her since she was a puppy. But, again, I was going to an emergency vet that needed to know information about her so that they could treat her. I was flustered giving the emergency vet all the information that they needed, thank goodness I had another smart human with me that could keep their head and give any information necessary. Now, I have a copy of all of the animals’ medical files in a folder in the car. Easy to grab on the way into an emergency vet.
- Do you have a first aid kit for your companion animals? I didn’t either. I do now. I’ll talk more about this in a minute.
Being (somewhat) prepared is what saved Olli’s life. And I am thankful. But I am also still recovering from the stress and shock myself. I have never had an experience like that with an animal- I hope to never have it again. And to be honest, the whole situation has put me in quite a state. See, Olli is extremely allergic to bees- maybe, we don’t know. We can’t tell for sure if that’s what stung her- or what exactly her reaction is from. I can make an estimated guess, and I have, but I’m not 100% sure. And that worries me.
Anaphylactic Shock can happen if the body is introduced to the allergen one time, but more common is an anaphylactic reaction the second time the allergen is introduced to the body. That means that most likely, Olli has been stung by a bee before. Which also means that the next time it happens, the reaction will be worse than this one. So, aside from freaking out every single time she steps her paws outside, I must be prepared for another emergency.
Rewinding a little to my list of things I learned, remember the first aid kit for your companion animal that I didn’t have? Okay, here’s where we talk about it. But before we do, I am not a vet. I am not claiming to be a vet, I am also not claiming that this advice should replace that of a vet. This post is for informational purposes only, please consult your regular vet with any questions regarding your own animal’s health. Now, that said- let’s talk about a first aid kit. Here’s what’s in my (new) kit:
- Styptic Powder, or cornstarch
- Eye dropper or oral syringe
- Cotton Swabs/Cotton balls
- Paper Towels
- Rectal Thermometer
- Lubricant such as mineral oil/vaseline
- Disposable gloves
- Cold packs/Heat packs (wrap in towel prior to use)
- Gauze (sterile)
- Non-stick pads
- First aid tape
- Bandage rolls (Vetwrap)
- Wound disinfectant
- Triple antibiotic ointment for skin
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl – get the liquid kind) for allergic reactions (get the proper dose from Vet for your pet)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- I also carry water, a portable water bowl, treats, doggie poo bags, and a spare leash in my car at all times.
Watch the expiration dates on any medication, and replace as needed.
Olli was lucky, we were lucky. Olli was given immediate treatment at the vet (One shot of Dexamethasone, coming right up!) and was stable (but not out of the woods yet) within 20 minutes. As it turned out, the vet we were at wasn’t able to care for Olli (because every pet emergency I have always happens on a weekend) and that she’d have to be transported to the nearest animal hospital. So, another long teary-eyed tale later, we were able to transport her to the closest animal hospital once she was fully stabilized. And she improved as time went on, and in a day or so we were able to bring her home. She’s now at home being spoiled. She hasn’t fully recovered and is still on medication for her allergic reaction. There’s more blood work that will be done to ensure there was no damage to her liver, another trip back to the vet in a couple of days to see how she’s doing. But she’s alive. And for that, I am thankful.