I learned today that I should listen to my gut feelings and only trust people who've earned it. I also broke my dog's trust and put her in a situation she couldn't handle.
Bailey had a surgery scheduled for her leg at the prompting of our rehab vet. Bailey's leg has a recurring lipoma (fatty, benign, lump) that's intertwined with important things in her right elbow. Lipomas are typically removed only if they're growing rapidly, or in a really easy to remove location. In Bailey's case, the lipoma grows in such a way that it appears to interfere with her ability to move that leg freely. For such an active dog, that not only puts stress on the compromised leg, but then also stress on the rest of her body due to compensating. For this reason, she has had this particular lipoma debrided (debulked) three times in the last five or six years.
I scheduled the surgery with a veterinarian who has handled a few of Bailey's "really abnormal" cases as well as routine acupuncture and chiropractic when we don't need to see the rehab vet. I've only ever worked with this one vet at the practice but I've come to trust her judgement. She tells me how it is, every time. When I presented Bailey's leg case to her, she said she'd be willing to debride it.
I got a call yesterday from a different veterinarian at the clinic asking me if it was okay that she do the surgery as our regular veterinarian is out with a back injury. I agreed to it and then we discussed Bailey's anxiety. I asked whether I should give her Clonidine before the surgery tomorrow or not. The veterinarian advised against it and said that instead, her technicians would put in an IV catheter and pre-med Bailey when she was dropped off. I know my dog, I knew she wasn't going to handle being kenneled in a strange place very well at all.
I'm going to preface the below by saying that I'm really happy that A) I got a call yesterday when they wanted to switch veterinarians and B) the veterinarian didn't do a surgery she wasn't comfortable with.
But, I got a return call at 1:30 today from the veterinarian saying that the surgery wasn't performed. We talked for a bit and apparently she was missing a lot of details about what's gone on before and what I expected... at 1:30pm (I dropped Bailey off at 7:30, she was going to be the first surgery of the day). She said nothing about how Bailey was doing and I was in the middle of doing something for work so I didn't think much of it.
Until I was driving out to pick Bailey up after work. And then my heart sank. My anxious dog who can barely handle significant changes in her routine with medication, has been sitting in a strange kennel all day. I had a feeling just what kind of dog I might be picking up. I'm sad to say, I was right.
I could hear her before she even got down the hallway. She was dragging the receptionist and whining. She leaped at me and then made a dash for the door. She was panicked and so upset she even had no interest in me.
A normal dog, a dog like Buzz, would have handled a situation like Bailey's today with barely a bat of his eye. Sure, he hates being kenneled but he's stable. He would have been happy to leave but I wouldn't be concerned about his elevated adrenal and cortisol levels impacting daily life for the next couple of days. We'd get in the car and he'd be his normal dorky self.
However, a dog like Bailey will be on edge for the next couple of days. She'll be hypervigilent and she'll be on house lock down, because otherwise she'll be having explosive reactions everywhere we go and the vicious cycle will continue. I've handled her like that before, and let me tell you, it's absolutely no fun for anyone. Today was not fair to her, and I should have known better. I haven't dropped her off for a procedure in years for a couple of reasons but her anxiety about being kenneled in a strange place is a major one. She doesn't handle sudden changes to her routine well, even while on medications. I'm borrowing a quote from a friend's blog,
"High levels of adrenaline are associated with heightened vigilance, anxiety, lowered thresholds of sensory perception; these make the dog more reactive to stimulation, rather than thinking. Higher levels of glucocorticoids cause an overactive stress response and depression. After a stress response it can take days for the glucocorticoids to go back down to baseline levels. If the dog has another stressful situation before this happens the entire cascade of the stress response starts all over." (The quote is taken from this article.)
I learned a lesson today. I need to advocate for my anxious dog every single time. And I need to make sure that there are crystal clear instructions about what to do in the case of "what if" situations.
What would I have done differently? Once the veterinarian decided she wasn't going ahead with the surgery, I would have wanted a call. I would have found a way to leave work to get Bailey and we would have gone home. She would have been upset, but she wouldn't have had so much time to build up even more anxiety to the point she's at now. The poor girl whined and panted the whole way home.
And now I get to manage her for the next couple days, and probably give her Clonidine regularly, because it will make her life a little more bearable.