This is the first entry of the story of my beloved little pup, Beans. I wrote this entry on January 7th, and will be posting subsequent entries as his medical drama unfolds. I hope as he gets older and stronger I will have less and less to say. He appears to be getting ever better, though still on medicine. We are cautiously optimistic that he will continue to recover.
That’s the dream. For now, here’s his story.
Jan 7, 2010
Many of you know N and I brought home a puppy on New Year’s Day. A perfect little Norwich Terrier named Beans. If you haven’t seen a Norwich puppy before, trust me that there are few cuter beings on the planet. Looks just like a teddy bear. And we fell in love hard and fast. I had posted his picture, but since removed it as it is too painful to look at right now. Maybe if I ever have the courage to post this story, I will repost the pics as well.
On Tuesday morning, three days after we brought him home, Beans wasn’t feeling well. We woke up to him retching in his pen. (We have a large x-pen next to our bed that he was sleeping in). He didn’t throw up, but it was apparent he wasn’t himself. Being nervous pup-parents we rushed him to a vet. They had a look at him…his temp was good, his gums good, his hydration good. They took a stool sample. They gave him some canned food, which he ate a bit of, and decided, much as we had hoped, that he most likely had an upset tummy. So we brought him home.
He spent the next few hours curled up on the floor next to me. He would occasionally get up to drink water, but he was a pile of lethargy. I tried not to worry too much as we had just taken him to the vet and I’m sure that was stressful for him and I hoped he was just sleeping it off. That, very sadly, was not the case.
At 3:00 that afternoon he threw up. It looked mostly like water, but it worried me. So I called the vet again. She suggested I bring him back in and leave him overnight for observation. They would make sure he was hydrated, take some blood and just make sure all was okay.
That night I called the vet in the early evening to check in on him. I was told he was still nauseous, but they had given him some anti-nausea medicine, and otherwise all was fine. Then, the phone rings 45 minutes later and the emotional roller coaster from hell begins. The doctor told us that she had listened to Beans heart and that it was highly irregular. That we needed to come pick him up asap and bring him to Animal Medical Center. In case you don’t know, AMC is one of the best animal hospitals in the country, if not the world. They are a hospital full of specialists. In every field. And needless to say they have a fantastic cardiology department. But, it is also a facility where many animals go to die. This weighed heavily on our minds as we rushed him across town.
We were checked into triage where the attending doctor rushed Beans into treatment to start him on a lidocaine drip. It didn’t immediately work. His heart was beating over 400 beats per minute. In comparison, a normal puppy has a heart rate of 120 – 160 beats per minute. They did an x-ray, and there was fluid building around his lungs. We were told he most likely wouldn’t make it through the night and we were preparing to let him go. He was unresponsive, his tongue and gums were purple and we didn’t want him to suffer more than need be. N and I were in this tiny room weeping together, trying to come to terms that we were losing our puppy – a puppy we’d only had a few days. Suddenly the Dr. reappeared and told us they gave him another dose of the lidocaine and it had worked. His heart was back to beating normally. We were beyond relieved, and they let us go back and see him. He looked like our Beans again. Alert. Happy. Tail wagging. More tears. Relief. Of course we still had no idea what was causing all this, but at least he was stable. They had him in an oxygen tank and were keeping him on the lidocaine drip overnight. We left him at AMC and were told the cardiologist (Dr. Bond) would see Beans in the morning and do an ECG to see how his heart looked.
We went home. Cried. Cried more. Wondered how this could happen. Is it something we did? We went over everything with a fine-toothed comb. Since we had him home, he had only been in two rooms – our bedroom and our office. And both had been completely puppy-proofed. We checked all the wires we could find just in case to see if he had chewed any. He didn’t. There were absolutely no toxins at all he could’ve come in contact with that could have caused a heart arrhythmia that severe. No drugs, no toxins, nothing. There was literally nothing. Our minds moved to perhaps him having an allergic reaction to something. But what? We had him on the same diet he was eating prior to coming home with us. We don’t wear perfume/cologne. Maybe the rug? Did he come in contact with something at the vets office? In our car? On and on we went, and truthfully are still going.
Wednesday morning Dr. Bond called and said the ECG showed absolutely nothing at all wrong with his heart. Literal tears of joy. She said sometimes they see an infection in puppies that leads to an arrhythmia and in some cases can cause cardiac arrest. Our next step was to try to find out what was causing it. Here’s the thing. No one could or can. Still. All his blood work came back and keeps coming back fine. He hadn’t gotten into anything toxin wise, there were no allergies happening, the best guess was a virus that we couldn’t detect. He doesn’t have parvo. He was tested for everything. EVERYTHING. And then some. He even had a abdominal ultrasound to see if there were any blockages. There weren’t. He appears to be an incredibly healthy puppy.
They took Beans off the lidocaine Wednesday morning and his heart was doing well. Dr. Bond suggested they keep him one more night for observation due to the severity of the arrhythmia he had had. just to be safe. If all looked good Thursday we could bring him home. We were ecstatic. Finally we’d have our Beans home. We spent the night once again going over the 2 rooms with a fine tooth comb. Swept. Vacuumed. Washed everything. And jokingly debated about whether to build a bubble to put him in.
Thursday morning we woke up to more bad news. Dr. Bond said that Beans’ arrhythmia came back Wed. night. They had him back on a lidocaine drip. Still no answers as to why or what is causing this. We learned that they see something similar in German Shepherd puppies every once in a while, but they have never seen it outside of that breed. Could he have the same ailment? Again no one knows. They have the entire cardiac staff and more working on this. In my mind I keep picturing an episode of House. Dr. Bond has been at AMC working in cardiology over 25 years and never in her time has she seen anything like this and is dumfounded. WTF.
She suggested that we try an anti-arrhythmia medication. She indicated that they can sometimes be better than a lidocaine drip in treating arrhythmia’s, plus, if he does well on it, we can bring him home. Only catch being that it comes in pill form and the amount in that pill is too much for our fragile little guy’s system to handle. So we need to have it compounded by a pharmacist who will turn it into a liquid and make the dosage the right proportion for Beans. Done. They started him on that medication last night. (1/6/11)
From what I understand it can take some time to get into the system. So they overlapped it yesterday with his lidocaine. Apparently last night around 11pm he still had another arrhythmia that shot his heart rate up again.
Today we’re literally going minute by minute. Dr. Bond thinks that by 11pm last night the compounded oral medicine probably hadn’t had a chance to get completely in his system. So now we have to wait and see what happens today. N and I are both in so much pain it can’t be described. It has been more ups and downs than we can handle. We are of course hoping for the best, but at this point not really expecting it. I have tears pouring down my cheeks as I write this. I love him so much and am not ready to say goodbye.
I have been useless. It’s very had to be a pet photographer and look at pictures of dogs when your own isn’t doing well. Just to get some other things out in the open as I know I’m making this public and I would want to know, I will share that he is not a puppy mill dog, we know his parents and his lineage and there are no heart issues or any other medical issues in his line at all. If this does turn out to be congenital he would be the first in his line ever. He is by all accounts a complete and utter mystery and stumping the best vets NYC has to offer.
UPDATE: So after I wrote the above we decided to have Beans stay one more night at AMC. If he could make it on the oral medication one night with no arrhythmia’s the plan would be to pick him up the next day and bring him home. However, I don’t think anyone thought that would be the case. N and I came to the very tough decision that if he did in fact go into any type of arrhythmia that night that they were to call us… no matter what time of night, and we would give the approval needed to let him go. We spoke it over with Dr. Bond and with the woman we got Beans from and everyone agreed that it was the right choice. If this medicine didn’t work there was nothing else we could do. Worst. Night. Ever. N and I were convinced we were saying goodbye to Beans that night. More tears were shed, and no sleep was had. We kept waiting for the phone to ring…but it didn’t…until the next morning when Dr. Bond called to tell us that Beans was looking great. What?!?!? How??? N, asked her this question. Her reply was, “god is good”. I don’t know whether god had anything to do with it, but I will tell you that I have never been so overjoyed and scared at the same time. Happy of course that Beans was doing well. And scared out of my wits that we would bring him home and he would die in our arms.
We brought Beans home that day along with 2 anti – arrhythmia medicines, and one antibiotic…not to treat anything in particular as we still have no idea what caused the arrhythmia, but more as a precautionary in case there was a virus that couldn’t be detected.
As of today, Beans has been home with us for 8 nights and is doing great! We are on a crazy schedule of giving him meds 5X a day. Hopefully this won’t be the case forever, but it will be for the next few months as we aren’t sure if this is developmental and he’ll grow out of it, or whether there is something wrong with the wiring inside his body that can’t be detected. We take him back to AMC the 2nd week of Feb to have another ECG done to see if there was any damage done to his heart during the 4 days of arrhythmia’s. And this weekend we take him to his regular vet to get his 16 week vaccinations.
I will update more as we know. The last thing I’ll share is this: The day we brought Beans home I was petrified. I kept feeling his heart, checking his breathing, watching his every move. Beans on the other hand played with reckless abandon. He devoured all his food. He jumped up and down like a maniac. And he attacked all his toys with zeal. He isn’t scared about his health, he has no concerns for what the future might hold, he just knows that in this minute he’s going to have the time of his life and he does. It’s a lesson that is not lost on me and that I want very much to apply to my own life. I’m quite sure Beans is going to teach me a lot more before it’s over, I just hope the heartbreak lesson comes years and years from now.
On a side note, I’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Bond and everyone at AMC for fighting so hard for Beans. We will forever be grateful. You are our heroes.