A little over two weeks ago, June 23rd, Odo’s condition changed. He had been doing rather well while we got his Cushings’ disease under control, although he was getting picky about his kibble, opting for a flavoring of yogurt, rather than plain. I’d noticed that he was panting more often, a Cushings symptom, and occasionally very restless, possible arthritic pain, but until June 23rd, he had shown no obvious gastrointestinal distress, which came in the form of vomiting. When his breakfast came back up with minimal digestion, I immediately called my vet. I was going to have her call me, but as the day went on and he was in obvious distress, I called the clinic back and had them squeeze us into the schedule. Odo was due for some standard tests in a week’s time, which was when his six month ultrasound was due as well. He couldn’t wait that long. After x-rays, an ultrasound and blood work, it was obvious that the gall gladder had distended greatly and that the only real fix was surgery.
We brought him home and attempted to give him some pain medication, then carefully weighed the pros and cons of putting a 14 year old dog through surgery. He could not get better without surgery, so we had to decide if palliative care for a few short days or weeks in which he would probably be in a lot of discomfort ending with euthanasia was better than putting him through surgery and postoperative discomfort for a couple of weeks to extend his life for 6 months to maybe a couple of years. We chose the latter since the prognosis after successful gall bladder surgery is excellent. We knew there was always the possibility that he could die during surgery or never come out of the anesthesia, but since he was facing euthanasia anyway, we took the chance, and gave him a chance at a longer life.
That night, Odo started vomiting again, and my decision was final. We would take him to the emergency hospital, next door to the surgical center, where they could give him relief from his pain and nausea, in preparation for surgery. I returned the next morning to get Odo checked in for surgery and consult with out veterinary surgeon. When I checked to see how Odo was doing they told me he hadn’t peed for them, and asked if I could take him out. I hadn’t planned on seeing him, because I didn’t want to confuse him, but I had to help him if I could. So they brought him out, left leg wrapped to keep it immobile for the catheter, which made his walk very awkwardly. He peed for me, of course, and I worried as I returned to the front door of the hospital, that he’d head for our car parked out front. To my surprise, he didn’t. He headed straight back to the door and when I handed the leash over to the tech, Odo led her away down the hall, back to the ward. That was when I knew I had made the right choice. He knew where he was comfortable and wanted to stay there.
Surgery took place around noon on June 24th. The gall bladder hadn’t ruptured, in fact still looked “good” despite it’s enormous size, and there didn’t appear to be any infection (a serious concern for a dog that’s sensitive to just about every oral antibiotic on the market). Odo came out of surgery like a puppy. He was ready to go home the next day, and unlike the day before was eager to get in the car. I had to hold him back to keep him from running across the parking lot. He was in some pain over the weekend, but we gradually eased him of the pain medication (an opiate derivative that distressed him), and eased him onto solid food. His recovery was amazing. Within days he looked more alert, his eyes were bright again, ears perked up. The only problem was some difficulty walking on his left foot, possibly some arthritis that became inflamed from the odd way he had to walk. Unfortunately, because of his elevated liver enzymes and his Cushing’s disease, anti-inflammatory medication was out of the question, so we opted for laser therapy and light exercise.
It has now been over two weeks since surgery and he’s mostly back to his old self. For those who know him well enough, he’s playing with his pillow again! He’s eating well, although oddly turns his nose at one particular treat (I think it was the last thing he ate before the vomiting started). He’s walking half a mile in the morning, a little bit less in the evening. The limp is nearly gone when he walks on pavement, but he still looks a little tender-footed on the gravel driveway, uneven surfaces, and when he gets up from a nap. He’s noticing the deer again and even trying to chase them.
There’s no way to know how much longer Odo will be with us, given his other medical issues, but I can say for certain that his quality of life, right now, is much better than it has been the last few months (even though we didn’t know it), and that alone was worth every penny.