A Sudden Scare of Losing Our Dog

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This last week, my family and I faced an overwhelmingly emotional situation – we thought we’d have to put our almost 2-year-old dog to sleep. We came home from the vet and all three of us cried our eyes out for the rest of the evening.

WARNING: This is a long post!

Let me back up as to what happened and then fill you in on the current news. Speckles (our dog) had what we thought was a ‘bad leg’. We brought her into the vet a year ago and he said it was likely some kind of sprain. He gave some pain pills for her and said to come back for x-rays if her limping did not go away. It did and it seemed she was better. During the time since then, her soreness would come and go. It would be especially noticeable when she was tired, but again subsided when she got some good rest. That was until two weeks ago.

  

Suddenly, we noticed that she would no longer put any weight on her hind left leg at all. We were very concerned and decided that x-rays were completely necessary. We were not happy with our last vet so we searched on Yelp and called for pricing. With 4-1/2 stars and an open appointment, we decided to visit a nearby veterinarian. I knew he charged more for x-rays but figured it was okay since we only needed two (both sides of her leg).

The vet seemed very patient and loved dogs. He gave a VERY thorough examination, pulling, stretching, and squeezing. Speckles mostly reacted when he tried to move her hip. At that point, the look on his face changed completely. He went on to tell us that she may have a slew of conditions from torn ligaments to joint deformity to arthritis to needing hip replacement, a surgery starting at $5,000. We were inundated with a mass of scary-sounding medical terms and the vet telling us she needed several x-rays that even required sedation.

We walked out of the examination room to the estimate of $490 for the suggested x-rays. As much as we love our dog, it was not feasible to sacrifice my family’s well-being in order to pay for our dog’s medical bills. My husband and I looked at each other and began to draw the same conclusion – either spend thousands of dollars (that we didn’t have) to MAYBE fix one of several conditions or drug her up on painkillers for the duration of her life. Neither sounded fair to Speckles and putting her out of her misery might be the most loving decision.

Suffice it to say, we were heartbroken. Speckles was our first dog and had grown to be a part of our family. My daughter was with us during the exam and, as we felt she was old enough to grasp it, we explained the situation to her. She considered Speckles her sister and did everything with her. She even took photos of Speckles all the time so that my daughter’s cell phone had hundreds of blurry and underexposed pictures of our sweet pup. Speckles was an awesome dog that was sweet, loving, funny, clever, stubborn, pretty, and totally special. Plus, she was not even two years old yet. It hurt so much thinking that our next few days with her could be our last.

Speckles dog life run sleep sit happy water

The next day, we already had standing plans to stay at a hotel in Half Moon Bay with Speckles. We decided to put all this aside and just enjoy our time with her as much as possible. We took a ton of pictures. Speckles was so sore from the vet pulling and pushing her muscles that she mostly just laid down. We were kind of irked at that vet for being so rough.

At one point, I picked her up from the back of the car and gently put her down. Suddenly, Speckles started to yelp like crazy for a good 1-2 minutes straight. Even other hotel guests were opening their doors to find out what was going on. My husband picked her up and brought her to our room. As I rolled her on her back, she wouldn’t even extend her hind leg. We went into hysterics! In a panic I called several places, hoping to get an appointment right away. It’s amazing how cold some receptionists can be when you’re trying to explain the situation but can barely talk without sobbing uncontrollably.

  

We finally got an appointment with a veterinary clinic I had taken Speckles to before, Whipple Avenue Pet Hospital in Redwood City. I loved the vet we saw here previously, but it was a bit far for regular visits. That didn’t matter now. They had an open appointment just two hours later and called the previous vets we visited to obtained more information on her leg. Dr. Stiglich walked in and said, “So, I see you saw Dr. So-and-So, our new VCA president…” Uh-oh, were we in trouble now?

She proceeded to clearly explain the diagnosis the last vet gave and the tests he did. She verified that the steps taken were just right and that x-rays, the same ones suggested earlier, were needed. We told Dr. Stiglich that we left the other office thinking we’d had to put Speckles down. She said, “No, there’s no reason that your dog can’t live a happy and full life.” That alone caused my husband and I a huge sign of relief. She said that were tons of reasonably-priced options to care for her, including treatment at renowned university. The vet put everything in layman terms for us but was not being overly simplistic or condescending. She said that she explains things to her patients the way she would her own mother. We truly appreciated that. She really had a wonderful bedside manner.

Without forcing us or even making us FEEL we were being forced, she asked us what we’d like to do. We realized that we HAD to get now and asked for a quote. Their quote was a good $150 less and they could see Speckles on Monday (they were closed on the weekend). In the meantime, she offered to prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medication just to help her for the next couple of days. As we could get the meds at a discount at Walgreens, she kindly wrote the prescriptions out so we could get them filled there. That alone saved us a bundle as well.

Today (Monday) I’ll be bringing Speckles in for her x-rays. We have no idea what they will reveal or if further tests will be needed. Hopefully, everything will turn out okay.

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Comments

  1. says

    I wish you the best of luck today with the X-rays and hope it is something that isn’t too serious so that you don’t have to choose between expensive bills and your beloved dog! {hugs}

  2. Mary W says

    My dog is recovering from orthopedic surgery he had 5 days ago. In a few weeks, my boy will soon be able to run and play again and be pain free without drugs. Yes, it was expensive ! We are glad we trusted our Vet’s recommendations. Our dog is a purebred AKC papered Boxer but he is a rescue. He deserves the best after his horrendous first 2 years before he found us. Find a good Vet and follow your heart.

    • says

      I’m so glad it worked out for you. Pets are tough since they can really work their way into your hearts and your pocketbook at the same time. This was our first dog so the sticker shock was quite severe. We’re glad it was ONLY a torn ACL and something relatively ‘fixable’ :) I hope your fuzzy boy is recovering well!

  3. Amy Orvin says

    Oh, God bless Speckles and family. Iknow all of this is so overwhelming. Just hang in there and don’t give up with her. She is your family pet-she’s worth it!

  4. Andrea Stark says

    TerriAnn, I had no idea! I’m so sorry to hear this, but I hope the best for future news! Thinking of your family and Speckles!

    • says

      Thanks so much, Andrea. This was why our trip there was especially important to us as we thought it was our last time with her. She loved it, as did we. Now that we found out the diagnosis is not as grim as initially thought, we’ll have to come back next time in better spirits :)

  5. Jen Taylor says

    My gosh, this is so sad and terrible. Your dog is under two years old and you feared you’d have to put her down simply due to a problem with her leg?! It seems the vet that let you think that was irresponsible. You would never need to euthanize a dog over a leg problem–that is only a very last resort for very ill dogs! Even if you get one opinion suggesting expensive surgery, there are always other opinions and other ways of helping your dog. It’s not like its a diagnosis of advanced cancer–this is something you can fix. You can give him pain pills; you can try physical therapy or acupuncture; you can make sure he isn’t doing anything in his day to day life that might be causing this pain. Even if surgery is the only option, you could put it off until you can save up. I am a big fan of pet insurance for this very reason–stuff comes up and it can be expensive. Maybe you could look into it–hopefully your dog will have a long life ahead if her. I wish you and your furry family member the very best!

    • says

      Thanks so much. Yes, he may have been a great vet technically but we are now going somewhere else due to his ‘overload’ of information sharing and for basically making us think the worst was inevitable. Less was more in this case. As Speckles is our first dog, we debated over pet insurance. We obviously won’t get her torn ACL covered but are definitely leaning to get it so we don’t face this situation again any time soon.

    • Jen Taylor says

      I know exactly what you mean by “technically” a good vet :). I’m so sorry you all had to go through that heartache. I hope you guys get through this as well as possible.

      And I mention the insurance not to be preachy in any way! I’ve never had pet insurance until now–for my current sweet pup. She’s a 5 year old , and she has needed quite a bit of care from vet specialists (in addition to regular vets)–she sees an opthomologist on a regular basis and has to see a dental specialist for some oral surgery! Who knows what will be in her future (hopefully nothing!), but we have learned in the past (the hard way) that dog insurance is not as odd as it used to sound to us! I know they’d never cover existing issues, but maybe the peace of mind might be worth it for the future (?). Good luck to you all!

  6. says

    You’re so welcome! You are an amazing family and Speckles is so lucky to be a part of it! I bet she’s irked! That little girl loves to play! :-) I hope she heals quickly for her sake and yours! If she’s anything like my two, boredom leads to all sorts of mischief!

  7. says

    Oh my Gosh! Having medical problems with your furry kid is no fun! When we took our Ginger in to be spayed when she was around 2, they called me while she was on the operating table – her fallopian tubes were the size of soup cans and about to burst! They asked me what I wanted to do (if they wanted us to save her) while she was laying there cut open. I was a sobbing mess as I called my hubby. Of course we had to save her, she was part of our family! We managed to scrape up the money somehow. I always say that Ginger is the most expensive mutt I know! I hope you can get Speckles all fixed up and ready to play again! Hugs!

    • says

      That’s horrible! These are the things no one seems to tell new owners…I’m glad that Ginger bounced back and has had such a great life since then. It makes me hopeful for Speckles. Those fluffy things can really get you attached in those two years, eh?

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