Monday, June 28, 2010

Ruby survives the weekend, heads to Gainesville

Headed to Gainesville in the Ruby Red Rubymobile
Ruby surprised us by surviving the weekend. Her diagnosis had been slowly degrading over the weekend, to the point where the vet on duty at the hospital told us she was borderline DIC. Her platelets kept dropping lower and lower, as well as her red-blood and white cell count. The definitive cause of her condition is now something of a mystery, but the doctors did the right thing by treating the symptoms as much as possible. I firmly believe if they had not given her what she needed she would have died and bled out that Saturday.

Now she's on the way to Gainesville veterinary school, and the small animal emergency clinic that they run. We've been there once before, back in 1986, with a yellow male named Rhett. Rhett had become ill some months before, in the early part of 1986. The vet at the time tried one antibiotic after another, trying to knock out the infection. Finally Judy took Rhett to a specialist in Sanford, who then recommended Judy take Rhett on to Gainesville. Two days after arriving at Gainesville they discovered a cure for his infection, and it wasn't long after that Rhett was his old normal self. Rhett was six at the time; he lived 10 more years after that.

So the wife, the oldest daughter, and Ruby are packed into the Ruby Red Rubymobile, and taking a road trip up to Gaterland, hoping for a second miracle. We shall see.

I'm no vet, but after nearly 30 years of raising and living with labs makes me wonder if there isn't something else going on with Ruby. My current theory is that she got a bite on the inside of her left ear, and that the walk pumped whatever was in the bite through her body. Her system started to react to the bite's material (venom, perhaps?), and as a consequence she's having an auto-immune response. Who knows. The expertise is in Gainesville, and if anybody can give a definitive answer they can.

Some good signs were the fact she wanted to walk around once she got outside the hospital, that she definitely wanted to get out of the car and go inside the house when we got home; from there she went out and checked out the back yard. She was pretty much wagging her tail the whole time she was up. And finally, when the Prius was buttoned up and everybody was leaving for Gainesville, she was sitting up in the back and smiling.

I'm not so selfish as to hang onto an animal to the exclusion of all else. There are definite quality-of-life issues at play, and if Ruby can't have a good active life, then it is time to let her go. But as long as she fights I won't give up on her, anymore than I'd give up on my wife and daughters. I am hopeful, but realistic.

Update

The "girls" arrived in Gainesville and the vet facility just before noon. According to Judy, Ruby refused to be placed on a gurney and wheeled inside. Instead Ruby jumped down and walked in, checking out every room that had an open door, and pausing to receive greetings and rubs from every person (and I mean every person) who turned and saw her enter. Ruby, if anything, is the perfect definition of the gregarious Lab. And the fact she had that much energy to do all that (all the while wagging her otter tail a mile a minute) is more good news.

The doctor (and his student assistant) saw Ruby and noted that she looked "really good". But the doctor did note the anomalies in her charts. They are going to keep her overnight, in the mean time they're going to perform a toxicology exam to see if there are other issues at play. The doctor also gave praise to the hospital team, saying they did exactly what they should have done given the circumstances. In the mean time wife and daughter are driving back home.

Update 9PM

Gainesville just called. The doctor on duty told us that Ruby's condition continues to slowly deteriorate, specifically her platelet count. They've also discovered what they consider serious kidney and liver damage. Kidney damage is considered the worse of the two. The doctor said that in the past vets would consider kidney damage irreparable. What they've now discovered is that the kidneys can come back from this stage if it doesn't get any worse.

He also told us that the numbers he's getting now are what he would have expected earlier. But because we caught it so quick, and because of the work the hospital did, that the damage was pushed back by at least 24 hours, buying her some more time to possibly recover. They're holding off trying anything else, just giving her saline and antibiotics and letting nature do the rest. It is still a long waiting game. She feels lousy but is not in any pain. Ruby's become something of a little celebrity with the staff; they check in on Ruby regularly. We may still get the dreaded call later in the night, we may not. Only time will tell.

Update 10:30PM

Judy and I had a talk. She informed me that the vet in Gainesville noted two major anomalies with Ruby. The first was a gastro-intestinal noise near the heart. This would not have been caused by the heat stroke, but would be considered a birth defect. The second was her higher-than-normal breathing rate. Again, this would not have been caused by the heat stroke. The vet's observations dove-tail with our observation of Ruby's "noises". Ruby would at times "snore" while she was in a dozing state, but not while awake (obviously) and not in deep sleep at night. I always thought it peculiar, and I asked our vet several times if this should be a concern. Our local vet said 'no'. This was the same vet who gave Ruby a clean bill of health when she was eight weeks old.

Based on the current unfolding events, and regardless of what happens to Ruby, Judy and I have made the decision to phase out our current local vet and to start using the vet recommended by the veterinary hospital. Second, I've started to talk to my office manager about the breeder network in her area. She raises Dalmatians, and those breeders (up and around Seminole county) are stringent about breeding as well as placement. I want to find the equivalent Lab breeders. Good breeders know other good breeders. I once thought Ruby's breeder was a reputable breeder, but now I have my doubts.

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