Friday, October 16, 2009

The Million Dollar Dog

***We're almost all caught up! This will hopefully be my last "retro" post, and then we can just focus on the here and now!***

On Monday, October 5th, we had to take our little dog Dixie (six year old, 3.8 pound yorkshire terrier) into the animal hospital for emergency surgery. Our vet had been telling us for the past year that this surgery was probably going to need to take place, but we just kept putting it off. Until the day came when we couldn't put it off any longer.

Dixie had a hernia on her belly, and it was suddenly getting bigger by the day. Our vet suspected that Dixie's small intestine had somehow gotten trapped in the hernia, and she was worried that it was becoming necrotic (dead) and that it would cause Dixie's other organs to become rapidly infected... leading very quickly to Dixie's death. We agreed to let her operate to remove the hernia and to save Dixie's life.

Dixie was also having problems with her teeth, which is very common for such small breed dogs as Yorkies. Their little mouths just aren't big enough to properly hold all of those teeth! Dixie's teeth were jammed in there so tightly that they were literally growing on top of and over each other. Severe periodontal disease had set in, and she needed to have a massive dental cleaning. The vet convinced us that now was the time to do it since it would save us a little money on the anesthesia fee by only having to put her under only once to perform the two surgeries. So we agreed. She warned us that she would probably have to pull a few of Dixie's teeth that were very badly damaged, but she also suspected that those teeth would possibly just fall out on their own during the dental cleaning. That was fine by us, because then we wouldn't have to pay for a cleaning and an extraction!

The vet had given us a written quote when we had initially discussed all of these surgeries last summer. I took that quote in with me when we made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. The highest possibly number on that quote was very high, but it still fell under "that" number of where we felt we were spending too much to save Dixie's life. Ryan and I had already made the decision on what "that" number would be... anything over it meant it was time to consider putting Dixie down. We went for the surgery.

Dixie was in surgery all day on Monday. The vet phoned me numerous times throughout the day to let me know how things were going. She phoned shortly after 2pm to let me know that Dixie was out of surgery... she had repaired the hernia, made sure there was no damage done to the small intestine, and she had pulled NINE of Dixie's teeth. She informed me that Dixie had over 50% bone loss in her upper jaw from the severe infection in the teeth. Dixie was having some post-operative difficulty, but she said that I could still come in when I got off of work to come get her. By the time I got there, Dixie had gotten worse as she was bleeding from her nose. The surgery on her mouth had been so extensive that the space where her canines had once been was now an infected hole that led straight into her sinus cavity. The vet recommended that Dixie spend the night in the animal emergency hospital across town, but warned me that it was going to be very costly. I explained to Dixie's vet that there was no way I could afford anything more than I was going to be paying her that day, so that I would take Dixie home and take my chances. She phoned the emergency hospital anyway on my behalf and gave them a head's up of what was going on and told them to possibly be expecting me sometime during the night.

It was at this time that the receptionist of the vet clinic handed me my bill for Dixie's surgery. I nearly had a heart attack right then and there. I was frozen in shock because the bill was almost THREE TIMES HIGHER than what we had originally been quoted. I began stuttering and stammering that the bill was incorrect, and that I needed to see the vet immediately to settle this dispute. I still had the original quote in my purse, so I pulled it out to hand to the girl. It was then that she pointed to the date on the quote... from last summer... and she told me that it had expired.


I started crying. Not just little soft tears trickling down my face like a dainty little lady might would do. No, I was sobbing... red faced, barely catching my breath, snot running down my face... sobbing! I had this astronomical bill to pay, and we weren't even sure if Dixie was going to live through the night. One of the technicians pulled me into an exam room and told me to sit down and to put my head between my legs. She also handed me a box of kleenex and told me that she would be back soon.

About 15 minutes passed, and I had managed to calm down a little bit. I was steadily on the phone with Ryan and Anna, and we were all trying to figure out what to do. The vet came into my little exam room, and she said that she was sorry but that the bill was correct. She apologized for the confusion, but said that there was nothing they could do about the fact that I was basing my decision to go ahead with the surgery on a year old quote, and they were basing their numbers for the surgery on current data. We worked out a payment plan, and Ryan, Anna & Reagan came to get me and Dixie from the vet because I was too traumatized to drive. I was exhausted, and I had a limp dog laying in my lap that was bleeding all over me and my truck.

That night was a very long night. Reagan was an angel... she had made get well cards and welcome home posters for Dixie, and she decorated the little cage that Dixie was to sleep in. Reagan even managed to be calm and quiet that entire evening so as to not disturb Dixie. I stayed up with Dixie until about midnight, and then Auntie Anna slept on the couch beside Dixie's cage for the rest of the night. I was up at 4:00am to check on Dixie again, and by that point the bleeding had finally stopped. By that afternoon, she was starting to show signs of life again.

It took about two days, but Dixie finally started eating and acting more like her normal self. Considering that she doesn't have any front teeth any longer, she has to eat canned mushy food. Trust me when I tell you that stuff smells horrible! Reagan won't even come into the kitchen when I first open the can of food because she says it smells too bad.

Dixie has had to have two types of medicines twice a day for the first ten days after surgery, and she has to wear a cone to prevent her from licking or scratching the stitches on her belly. The cone has also served as a reminder for Reagan that Dixie is still healing, and that we need to be extra calm and gentle when we were around Dixie.
We took Dixie back to the vet this afternoon for her post-surgical check up, and everything is looking good. The stitches on her belly were removed, but she will still have to wear the cone until all of the scabbing has disappeared. Her mouth has almost healed completely as well, but they still want her to eat the soft food mixed with her regular food until she figures out how to eat with the majority of her teeth missing. Of the 42 teeth that she is supposed to have, Dixie now only has 23!

Ryan has taken to calling Dixie his Million Dollar Dog, and he has even joked around about getting her a gold "grill" to wear in place of her missing teeth! Needless to say, we had no plan or intention of paying that kind of money for our little dog, but we are extremely grateful that she should now be able to live for at least another 6-8 years!


Semi-Slacker Mom said...

It must be a yorkie thing! We had to pay around $1500+ for ours to fix his broken leg (surgery was included). Are we crazy?

Jenn@the loves of jenn said...

OMG - I hate vets! They are such a rip off sometimes. They should have gone over all the cost with you before the surgery. How can the cost go up by three times in one year? I'm so sorry that happened but am really glad that your dog survived and is doing well!

Jenn said...

I can't believe they didn't go over the cost with you BEFORE the surgery. Very uncool. So sorry that you had that to deal with on top of Dixie's surgery. :(

Loukia said...

I'm so sorry that your dog had to go through all of that and I'm sorry at your outrageously high bill, too... how stressful that entire situation must have been for you!

Lexie Loo & Dylan Too said...

Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry about that. I'm really glad that Dixie is doing well, but I'm so sorry the vet bill was so high!

WhisperingWriter said...

Yikes, I am so sorry about the vet bill. I know those things can get insane.

I'm glad your dog is doing better though.

Chic Mama said...

At least Ryan can make a joke about it.....leaves a bitter taste in your mouth doesn't it. They can just charge what they like. Hope Dixie is feeling much better now.

Mighty M said...

Poor dog and poor wallets! I think we will do just about anything for our pets.

Mama4Real said...

Isn't it so hard w/ dogs? You love them to DEATH, but you can't pay to save their lives, that's frivolous. My SIL has paid thousands and thousands of dollars to keep her dogs alive. When we put our Beloved Deucey down, it was the most horrible heart wrenching decision we ever had to make, but we couldn't afford to get her treated, esp. when it would only prolong the inevitable, it was awful.

I'm so sorry that happened to you. I fell apart like that @ the vet when they told me she had cancer. I was also escorted to a private room with her... Ugh. So awful. I'm so so so sorry.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

I am so sorry, for your pup and for you! How hard was that??

Ashley @ {Let Go, Laughing} said...

i can't even imagine how hard that must have been... all of it! so intense!

hope the pup is feeling better!

ModernMom said...

Oh hon...I ould feel the pain in your post. I really think the vet should have given you a heads up that the bill was going to be so much higher then your quoe a year ago. Not cool. Glad things worked out. Boy oh boy the things we do for our furry friends.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased that she is on the mend but I think the vet was completely out of line. How can the bill have tripled? Inflation is in single figures in the US so how does he justify it. I would look into it further if I were you. I love your blog and will be following you from France!