Armed with meds I got Bummy home and got to contacting everyone around me. Even at this point, reading other stories my head could not wrap around how dangerous this could be. I still was even thinking I might be able to show again soon. The few friends I told were equally as skeptical as me and maybe even more. How random could this be, what was canine influenza – was it just kennel cough?
That night two more of my dogs got sick and my heart sank. Now all of my dogs that had been at the show were sick (I think everyone but Bumble Bee got it at home or the drive home). And now my co-owners’ dogs were all getting this. I wish I could tell you the order and when but cannot, they just started going down like dominos.
As dogs added to the sick group I needed more meds as they all needed supportive meds and cough medicine. At this point it was confirmed there was Canine Influenza at the shows so we had to make a medicine change as the cough medicine had steroids in and there was a concern that it could suppress their already taxed immune systems.
I was half dead at this point. I was aimlessly walking the aisles of my local grocery store when my friend Kim called. She literally gave me a list of things to buy for the dogs. I had barely slept, I had been trying to work while taking care of the dogs and it was taking it’s toll on me mentally and physically but worse then that, I was losing control of the dog’s coughs. I called my vet and we made yet a third tweak to the meds for the dogs.
While all this is going on I had been in contact with our Parent Club president. I had been hesitant to go public because I did not want a panic but at the same time people would start going to the big Memorial Day shows and people needed to know this was more than pesky kennel cough. My dogs at that point all had symptom. Everyone was coughing or had elevated temperatures, my co-owners’ dogs were all getting sick and I told our president I think we all needed to go public.
Our President put out a notice and I turned back to my dogs. The coughing had gotten REALLY bad. The 24 hour period with the second cough meds was a huge step backwards, I had temperatures climbing, breathing was irregular, they were shedding weigh in front of my eyes. They were no longer eating well so I had to start trying other food. I probably spent $500 at the grocery store, crock pot chicken, hamburger and rice, Mac and Cheese, cottage cheese whatever I could get into the dogs.
That night I had two dogs go over 104 temperatures. That was the threshold for pneumonia which is what had the most devastating consequences. With losing control of the cough, my dogs were coughing up phlegm and trying to keep meds down became a challenge. Let me explain, when you cannot control the cough, it is hard to keep meds down. When you cannot keep meds down temperatures rise, coughing gets worse, the dogs begin to dehydrate. They feel even worse, so they stop eating and drinking and they spiral down. This is when they get pneumonia and have to be admitted into ICU at a facility that can handle contagious diseases..
This happened to one of my dogs. At 2pm Bacon was doing fairly well. At 2 am Bacon was barely conscious. This puppy is my heart, I have been told we have an invisible umbilical cord between us and he was very sick. Not only was he coughing up phlegm, he started coughing up his food. He could not hold water down. He just laid there and vomited and vomited. I watched him struggle to breathe, I could see the pain he was in. He hurt from coughing, he hurt from vomiting. He just looked at me so sad. Pain. Exhaustion. And there was nothing I could do but hold him and beg him to keep breathing.
I was afraid to go to sleep. I called the local emergency animal hospital – they told me I could not come in, there was nothing they could do. I literally was sitting there with my puppy praying he would not die. Watching every labored breath hoping it was not the last. I laid on the floor next to him and told him to keep fighting. I was so exhausted but I did not want to fall asleep because I was sure I would wake up to a dead dog. Maybe even dead dogs as another of my dogs seemed to be on the way to the same spot.
Finally, sheer exhaustion took over and I fell asleep, I woke up three hours later to the sound of more dog vomit, but more importantly Bacon was still alive. I let him out of his crate and he sadly wobbled out to go to the bathroom, none of my dogs jumped up. They were all so sick. They laid their listlessly and one by one went outside and then came back in.
My go-to dog taxi was my Prius so I bundled Bacon into the car and got to the vet at 7:30 am. Some joggers went by and he barked at them – I had never been so happy to hear him be a brat. A t least he was alert.
We met my vet outside again (we were not allowed inside) and he gave Bacon fluids and anti-nausea meds. It was then we came up with a plan of what to do after hours. While it was a big negative I needed a definitive scale of when to head to the state vet. It was a dose of reality I needed, it comforted me that we had not reached that yet and the fact Bacon was bright enough to actually bark made me feel better.
As my vet said, my dogs looked and sounded horrible, they felt horrible but we were not in grave danger – YET. And my job was to make sure they never crossed that line. I went home, went back to work and hoped the new cough meds would begin to help the dogs.
My co-owners and I had been texting and calling each other and so we had been bouncing ideas of each other. One of them mentioned Hydrocodone and so I discussed this with my vet. I kept thinking these dogs were exhausted, if I could knock them out to sleep more I thought they would feel better. As he said, there was nothing stronger we could give but it was worth a try.
I had a break in meetings and ran to the store, I wanted to try rotisserie chicken with Bacon. I could not get him interested in ANY food and I needed food in his stomach. I went over to the pharmacy and gave them the prescription the Pharmacist informed me that they did not have tablets and that it may be hard to find. I turned into a sprinkler as I just fell apart. As only someone from the south understands, the lady rushed to my side to give me a hug. The whole story spilled out and then there were multiple people crying with me and a nice lady overheard and stopped in her tracks and grabbed my hand and the group of us began to pray. To have random strangers stop and pray for my dogs gave me a glimmer of hope.
The pharmacy started calling around to local pharmacies to see if they had any of the tablets and another worker went to the deli to get my chicken. This little act of kindness made me feel so much stronger.
Once I got home I started ripping the chicken apart and tried feeding Bacon. He turned his nose up at first but the smell got to him and he turned his nose toward me and I stuck a piece in his mouth. I got him to eat 3 or 4 pieces. I was too afraid to hope but at that point it was at least not a dead end.
The next few days the dogs were up and down. I was giving Bacon sub qs. My cough medicine bill alone was $50 a day but the temperatures all started to go down, first under 103.5 then under 103 and then finally went down to normal temps. We had turned the corner. I was too afraid to believe we were out of the woods but it did seem we were trending to recovery versus hospitalization.