Monday, February 7, 2011

Just call me the Grim Reaper

Saturday night brought a plague of euthanasias.

First through the door was a tiny terrier type dog, about 10 months old. She was outdoors only, had never been to a veterinarian, was unvaccinated, and emaciated. The owners had found her that day with bite marks on her sides. They had cleaned the wounds as best they could, bandaged her chest, and given her aspirin for pain. Several hours later, they found her unable to move, breathing heavily. When she got to us, I unwrapped her chest to find a huge thoracic bite wound. One side of her chest was caved in, and her breathing was extremely labored. Sighing, I knew what the verdict would be. Owners without the finances to vaccinate, spay, or deworm a pet would not have the finances to repair this kind of thoracic trauma. I dispatched the cute little terrier shortly afterwards.

Quick on the heels of that was an 11 year old Great Dane with acute onset of non-productive retching for the last 20 minutes. Great, I thought. A GDV in an ANCIENT Great Dane. After talking to his distraught owners, the decision was made to euthanize him. I cannot fault that decision given the dog's advanced age.

In the midst of that, I was presented with a cat in acute, severe respiratory distress. This kitty was also of an advanced age (15 years old). His lungs sounded like Rice Krispies, making me immediately suspicious of heart failure +/- pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs). I gave him a dose of Lasix to help pull the fluid out of his lungs, then popped him in the oxygen tank. His owner was also financially limited and concerned about the age of her cat. He went to heaven shortly thereafter as well.

Finally, at the end of all this, came an ancient miniature Poodle. She was acutely unable to use her hind limbs at all. Given her age, I was concerned about a spinal tumor of some sort, although an extruded disc pressing on her spinal cord certainly could have caused her signs. I gave her owner the option of referral to the neurologist nearby, but due to finances and (again), her dog's age, euthanasia was the final decision.

You would think all of this would depress me no end, however it didn't. With the exception of the small terrier, the animals were all old and had very grave illnesses. In these cases, it was a privilege to be able to relieve suffering and be with owners as they said good-bye to their pets. It's one reason my job is better than a human MDs. I don't have to stand by often and be party to mindless suffering, I can help alleviate it.

The rest of the night was sprinkled with the usual vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, bloody urine type cases. Nothing too exciting, no major surgeries. I have to say, I kinda like it that way. Other than very mild bouts of nausea, some tiredness, and mild abdominal cramping, the pregnancy is not making itself too known yet. I go for an OB visit on Friday, at which time I'm supposed to be able to see the heart on U/S. We'll keep you posted!


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, the strong sense that you are doing the right thing with all of these patients is what makes it bearable. Sounds like quite a night.

Holly said...

Unfortunately, the type of work you do increases the chances of euthing animals. Which, as you pointed out, is not always a bad thing.