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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Terrible Way To Start My Day

I got a call at home early yesterday morning from clients of mine whose dog was in serious distress. In fact, they believed she was dying. I told them I would meet them at the clinic ASAP. By the time I got there, they were already there, and the dog had died on the way. She was a beautiful, young, Golden Retriever, and she lay lifeless in the back seat of the car. She was surrounded by the entire family, all of them with moist, bloodshot eyes. The father told me, "If God created the perfect dog, it would have been this one."

One of my associates had been seeing the dog for a couple of weeks (months?) for mysterious, neurologic symptoms. At first it was believed that her strange behavior was related to her epilepsy, which had been diagnosed a couple of years ago. It could also have been due to the phenobarbital that she was taking for the epilepsy. Her lab tests showed nothing of consequence, and in such a young dog we wanted to believe that it was something simple. But the mom knew better.

She brought the dog to see me (we are friends), and said, "Something is seriously wrong. I can't say what, but she is definitely not right." She mentioned that she seemed to breathe funny. We took a chest Xray and noticed an enlarged heart and some fluid in her chest. We then did a cardiac ultrasound and discovered that her heart sac (pericardium) was full of fluid and compressing the heart so severely that it couldn't beat properly. Unfortunately, that wasn't the worst of it. The source of the fluid was a tumor attached to the heart.

The radiologist placed a catheter through the chest into the pericardial sac and started draining the fluid. The dog actually sighed with relief as the fluid drained out. It was only a matter of minutes until we could see that she was feeling much much better. Unfortunately we knew that it would only be a matter of time until the tumor caused the fluid to return. They took her home, happy to have her back to normal, but with heavy hearts because of the short amount of time she would have left.

They told me yesterday that she was almost completely normal until her symptoms suddenly reoccured the night before. By morning, she was almost gone. By the time she got to my office she was gone. What a terrible way to start my day.

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