Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A sad day at Crawford Dog and Cat

We had a busy but somewhat sad day at work today. We started with someone that was watching their brother's dog call in to say that the dog had died suddenly last night and wanted to know if we could do a necropsy examination to find the cause of death. These are often unrewarding and I am often reluctant to do them as they cost the client a fair amount of money and are inconclusive as often as not. Not so the case this time. This poor dog was a golden retriever and they are very prone to cancer. I was relatively certain that we would find some sort of bleeding tumor, associated with either the spleen or the liver. I searched through the abdomen and was unable to find anything too far out of the ordinary. Photo's were taken for the record, but I will spare you all the gore.

The chest was a bit more informative. The heart was grossly enlarged so I decided to remove it and the lungs from the chest, no easy task as most of these structures are associated with large blood vessels and if the dissection is not done carefully, it really turns into a bloody mess, with little hope of gaining any useful information.

The organs were successfully removed and the heart was huge, or at least the pericardial sac was huge. I'll explain. The heart is encased in a sac called the pericardium. There is usually a small amount of fluid in the pericardium that lubricates the heart and allows it to move freely in the sac. Here is a picture:

This poor dog's pericardium had about 250 cc of unclotted blood in it form a bleeding tumor on the base of the heart. This restricts the heart's ability to contract and caused this poor pups demise. The woman watching the dog was relieved that the dog did not suffer, as death is somewhat rapid once the bleeding starts. I was also able to assure her that she did nothing wrong and that there was no way for her or her brother to have known that this catastrophe was brewing.

Then my final call of the day was to deliver the cremated remains of a cat to a house call client. She is an older woman, not in good health herself. I met her and the cat about a month ago when she had me out to the apartment to trim the pet's nails. I examined the cat at the same time, and to the owner's surprise, diagnosed a large tumor on the cat's liver. She was shocked, and even worse, when I told her that the poor pus only had a short while to live, she broke down and cried. Unfortunately, my prediction was accurate, and I had to go back out to the home to euthanize the cat just before the holiday. It is always a little awkward when I don't really know the owner or the pet. She was sobbing and the poor cat was almost comatose. Today I returned the ashes to her and we shared a hug. She had about 4 cases of cat food which she gave to me. I'll use it to feed orphaned cats or get it to a shelter.

She was clutching one of her pet's toys in her hand and she pressed a bill into my hand for "gasoline" I tried to refuse but she insisted. I'll use it to buy toys for the strays at work.

Although both people suffered a great loss, I felt lucky to have met them both and fortunate that I was able to help them in some way during their times of need. We all have those unpleasant interactions, especially this time of year when people are very stressed. It is enriching to meet nice people that appreciate the good will of others. Hopefully this will rub off on everyone they meet and on those that I meet going forward.

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