Animals and Pet Care
Psyche's Nightmare, The Tale of a Second Hand Dog
A 4 1/2 inch lump on a 10 inch dog.
(One third of this thing in the photos is still inside the dog.)
Plainly visible and easily felt.
Six months of symptoms and ongoing pain.
Is it to be believed that no one noticed?
I will tell you Psyche's story, then I will let you decide, was it....
1. Monumental cruelty?
2. Monumental neglect?
3. Monumental ignorance?
The short version of Psyche's story started when it was decided by my family for many "logical" reasons that she should be fostered out. We were going to find her a family and let them keep her until it looked like a good match was made, only then would ownership of Psyche be given over to her new family. (Psyche is a Champion bred show dog) Many families were interviewed over months of time, one was found that seemed suitable. The man of the house was the manager of a Northern Ontario communications related business, the wife worked, another adult family member was home all the time and could walk the dog daily and be her constant companion, and there was a young girl in the family that was wonderful, kind and considerate with animals. They all seemed intelligent and kind and they could afford the proper financial care of this little dog. We knew people that knew them. They wanted her badly. What could sound better?
I used to check up on Psyche nearly every morning as I watched her being walked as I drove past the house on my way to work. I often parked and watched her a while. She seemed healthy and content. At least over the first 6-8 months. Then I saw her less often and soon almost not at all. My own schedule had changed somewhat and I believed that to be the reason. The foster family was talked to a few times each week through work related channels and we were told all was well. After barely seeing Psyche over a few months I went over to see her.
Within the first several moments of seeing her could see that Psyche was in a great deal of physical discomfort. She was nervous and cowed. When I asked the woman how long the dog had been acting in this fashion she said it had been "since around the time of her last heat", nearly 6 months ago! I asked why she had not called me or had not brought the dog to a vet in all that time and was told, with a laugh, that the dog was "just trying to get some attention." For 6 months? "Oh, and she's been bleeding off and on for a few weeks or so too." Bleeding? Weeks? Was that to get attention too one wondered? Clever dog. I would like to say I handled this news with calm dignity. I did not.
I took my dog home and immediately called my vet and made an appointment for 7:00 a.m. the following morning. An exam lasting all of 14 seconds or less showed the vet, and myself, that something was very much amiss. Psyche had a very large, and very hard lump in her stomach area. Various tests were run and x-rays were taken. Below you see the results of those x-rays.
An operation was immediately scheduled to investigate further.
What was found you will see for yourself below.
What you are seeing are bladder stones. Solid, heavy, rock hard deposits that built up over the 6 months of pain that little Psyche had to endure for them to reach this size. We have all heard stories of the extreme pain caused when a person has microscopic sized stones. Imagine what this little dog had endured all those months!
The stones were sent to a lab in the United States for breaking up and testing to learn what conditions led to their growth. Apparently we have nothing local that can deal with things of this size and extreme hardness. Several vets and the lab people commented that they had never in many years of service seen anything of this type so large, in any sized animal. Much less a small 10 pound dog! One vet said that each stone individually was larger than the dog's bladder should have been on it's own.
An extremely distended and damaged bladder, one third of this mass is still inside the dog
One of the two stones removed from Psyche. Please notice the size of the stone in relationship to the dog's foot. This one stone was larger in size than her entire healthy bladder should have been
The second stone in the hand of the operating veterinarian
Internal damage being repaired
The outcome of Psyche's tale?
- The stones were caused by improper diet and could have been cleared up with a two week change in diet and 10 day course of medication had it been taken care of when the symptoms had first appeared. (excessive squatting and constant forcing to urinate, yelping in pain while urinating, nervousness and licking the area, sitting and walking oddly- all things the lady had said the dog had been doing for nearly 6 months)
Total cost would have been: approximately $200-$300.
Prognosis would have been: excellent with no long term or permanent problems.
- Financially the whole process of tests, surgeries, medications, and special diets has cost now, over several thousand dollars. And 11 months later we are not yet done.
- Because of the long amount of time the problem was ignored and the extent of damage done to Psyche she must undergo periodic tests (at first daily, then weekly, then monthly) and must now remain on a special prescription diet for the rest of her life.
- Psyche has had to be put back on medication twice since the operation to deal with the internal trauma and damage.
- Psyche has had some permanent damage done to her bladder and may never be back to normal.
- Psyche had to be spayed after the first operation, the damage done to her inside by allowing this condition to remain and grow for so long was just too great to ever put her through the stress of a pregnancy. There will be no future Champions or beloved pets from Psyche.
But Psyche has for the most part recovered!
You can see Psyche today in the middle of the photo at the right. Her aunt is on the left of the photo and her mother on the right. She sits beside me now as I type this, her head on my lap.
She is back home with a family that loves her and pays enough attention to look after her properly. My guilt at ever letting her out of my home is too great to ever allow me to consider fostering out another dog. We have had some great successes with retired show dogs in the past, but this one very disturbing episode will not allow me to chance it again. She's home and she will stay here until she dies an old, honoured, and far distant death.
I have asked myself a hundred times how such a thing could have happened. Were the people so uncaring that they saw what was going on and simply would not spend the money for a medical exam? Were they so oblivious to the condition and care of the dog that they truly did not notice something it took only seconds for several other not "animal" people to notice immediately? Were they just too ignorant or lacking in intelligence to be able to see? I have no answers that are not too horrible to contemplate as possibilities. What I do know is that the family has never bothered to call to learn the outcome of Psyche's ordeal. If they read this story someday it will be their first indication that she survived having a 4 1/2 " lump. They have never bothered to learn what is was or why she was bleeding. I still have bad dreams about my monumental lack of judgment that allowed my little dog to live with such people.
Perhaps what happened is just the way it is with second hand dogs*. The numbers show that the vast majority of adult dogs re-sold or given away do not survive more than a year or two. There are many people discussing the whys of that truth, but truth it remains. I hope that the story of my little dog's ordeal will help other well meaning people to stop and and think before giving away their older dog because it has become inconvenient for some reason. A dog is a full time commitment in caring, attention and money for 10-20 years and should be considered such. I tried to do what I told myself was the "best thing" for my little friend and failed miserably. Perhaps I was just being lazy. It will not happen again. The truth of the numbers cannot be denied or hidden from. I can only hope my story, guilt, and and shame will save the life of another dog someday by causing it's owner to stop and consider the true realities of giving away an adult canine member of their family.
(* A term coined in the 80's to describe generally adult dogs given away or sold to second homes.)