Chapter 35 –  Kidney close call #1, April 2014

I went to Europe with my (former) girlfriend to see Munich and Prague for eight days in April 2014.  We had a great time, and I checked in with Darlene a few days into the trip and Gabby was fine.
When I landed back in the States I called home.  Gabby had been out of sorts the past few days, but not in distress. My dad had been monitoring things and did not think it was necessary to alarm me, and it was the right call.
When I got to Darlene’s, Darlene was holding Gabby and she started paddling frantically to try and get to me.  I went and picked her up. She was so light, she felt wispy!
Darlene said that after five days she did not want to eat, saying, “You usually are back in less than a week, this is the first long trip you have taken in a while. She started looking for you after a few days, and then she didn’t want to eat.  She seemed to be ok and we know she can be like this, we even touched base with the vet and was told it was not necessary to bring her in yet.”
I took her home and took this picture.  Little Miss Separation Anxiety had really did it to herself this time!  
I fed her and she wolfed it all down. I gave her dog food and the egg/chicken mix she always loved. She ate a lot for two days, and it seemed she would be fine. Her strength and attitude were coming back and I could tell she was gaining weight.
Four days after my return we drove to Meadowlands for vaccines.  On the way I ate McMuffin in the car and she was trying to snap it out of my hand when I wasn’t looking. She definitely seemed better.
After she was vaccinated, she seemed sluggish for two days, and was reluctant to eat or drink. We thought perhaps it was a vaccine reaction. By day three she didn’t want to move.  She was just sleeping and not doing anything, eyes barely open.  I took her to the ER.
A wonderful emergency vet, Dr. Amanda Della Penna, was there. She took a look at Gabby and ran bloodwork.
The bloodwork was beyond bad.  Gabby’s phosphorous and BUN levels were so high, they were off the charts and into the next room.  Dr. Della Penna told me she had to dilute the blood sample five times just to get a reading in the machine… that is how high it was.
I looked at the figures in shock and thought, “She’s done.  Her kidneys have completely failed.” Yet somehow, it did not feel like it was her time.  Something told me, it just wasn’t, despite what I saw on the paper.
Dr. Della Penna calmly walked me through it.  Gabby was dehydrated, and IV fluids would give her a chance to clean out her bloodstream and bounce back. We could try it for a day and see if she improved.  If she did not improve, we would have to “have a conversation…”
I knew what that meant.
“Do it… anything to give her a chance.  Bring me the papers now so we can start right away.”  I told her.  I quickly signed everything and they took her downstairs to the ICU.
Just a few days before she was trying to snap food out of my hand… now this.  I realized the combination of not eating for days, then eating and stuffing herself then not drinking enough, and perhaps feeling down from the vaccines had dehydrated her and screwed up her kidney values.

I asked if we could come back later to see her.  They said yes, around 3 am. She needed rest and time for the fluids to work.  My dad and I went back to my place, and I realized this could be it. We had challenges before, but this was the first time I had an extremely real risk of losing her. I reflected on our life together, and how special she was… and cried.  I was not ready to say goodbye.  You never are, but still…

We went back at 3 am.  They opened her kennel at the hospital ICU and she woke, her dim eyes recognizing me.  Her leg was in a cast holding the IV.  She perked up, but you could see she still did not feel well.  She got up on the cast leg to try and get to me. It was cute and sad at the same time.
I leaned into the kennel and put my face next to hers and petted and cuddled her.  “How’s my sweet girl!  You’re a good dog, Gabby!”  She seemed calm and relieved to see me, even though she was clearly weak, scared and unwell.
It was so hard, knowing she was fighting for her life.
Dr. Della Penna looked on and smiled.  “Hang in there girl, we will have you snapping McMuffins out of his hand again!”  Her confidence and optimism were reassuring.
Dad, ever the optimist, said, “I think she is going to get better.  She improved already.”
For me, it sounded too good to be true. But I hoped and prayed.
I let her sleep all the next morning and stopped in for afternoon visiting hours.  They brought her in to see me, and she was fully aware, but did not seem comfortable or happy. She was shivering, too.  I did not feel good when I left.

I rode around with dad for a few hours, reflecting on the life Gabby and I had shared together, realizing that it could be ending soon.  I started to search the web for places that did canine dialysis. If the IV fluids did not work, then maybe the next level of care would get her back to normal and we could maintain it from there.  I didn’t care about the cost, but realized that at almost 16.5 years old, it would not be good for her or make sense.  I resigned myself to whatever would happen.

We got to the hospital and they told us Gabby was doing well, and Dr. Della Penna would be in to see us.
They brought Gabby in and she looked SO much better than she had in the afternoon. She was calm, but you could tell she was ok and relieved to be with us.
Dr. Della Penna came in, beaming.  “I have some great news for you…”
Gabby’s values were almost normal, after just one day of IV fluids!  Thank you, God!
Dr. Della Penna explained she would spend another day in the hospital getting IV fluids, we would check the blood once again and if all was well, she could go home.
The next day, everything was normal and Gabby came home. She was spent and you could tell she had been through a lot. When we first got home I sat in the living room and she laid in my lap, exhausted.  I was so happy to have her back. It felt surreal she was back home after what we went through.  I never thought I would have her in my home, in my arms, again.
This is her sleeping under my arm the first night she was home.  The next day she was very weak, and when I put her down in the yard when I took her out after we woke up, she fell over.  I wanted her back, but I did not want her to have a life like this!

I spent the next two days in bed with her and didn’t leave at all except to get food or go to the bathroom. I just read, worked on my iPad and watched TV and movies with her cuddled under my arm or in her normal place next to my knee under the covers.  It was the best feeling ever!  Beni stayed with us too, of course, and my dad came over to help so Beni could get more exercise.

I fed her in bed too.  She seemed comfortable there. As you can see in the picture above, she was still a little bit weak.  That’s why she has a little arch in her back, the hind legs were not up to full strength yet. By the way, she was always a super-refined and neat eater.  She rarely spilled a crumb out of her bowl!

Within a month, she was pushing her big Kong all over the house again.  

She had a second chance.

I also took her off the proin for a while, figuring she had enough stress for a while and didn’t need to deal with more meds than necessary.  Guess what?  The seizures completely stopped, and she wasn’t incontinent anymore, either.  I looked up info on proin and apparently it can cause seizures in some dogs. Apparently the proin was serving as a trigger, and she had her sphincter strengthened enough from her time on the drug that she didn’t leak even after I discontinued it.

So, there was one positive thing out of all of this. It was painful and expensive to get it, but having the seizures stop was a real blessing.