Saturday, December 4, 2010

Griffin's Health

Breathing problems are quite common in bulldogs (those squished faces are adorable but not ideal for respiratory health). Griffin didn't breathe, so much as he wheezed and coughed. Multiple people have commented to me on how quiet Olivia's breathing was for a bulldog, so I just assumed Griffin was typical.

About 4 weeks after bringing Griffin home, he got sick. On Friday he was coughing and seemed a little sick. I brought him to the small town vet by camp who gave me some antibiotics. By Sunday, his eyes were filled with pus and he looked terrible. When he climbed under the porch and refused to move, I started panicking. When I finally got him inside and he was so weak he couldn't walk, wouldn't eat and peed all over himself, I was in full panic mode. I had 3 options- I could bring him to the emergency vet in the next town over, bring him back to St. Paul to the emergency vet or wait a day and bring him to my vet (who specializes in bulldogs).
He made it through the night and the normally 3 hour drive took me just under two hours the next day. $300 worth of tests later, the vet shook her head and said she just didn't know what to say. Anything that could be wrong was and she wasn't sure what to say. She gave me some more antibiotics and told me to come back in three days. Dr. Jim (a well known bulldog specialist) would be available and he would be able to tell me if there was anything we could do for Griffin. Gently, she told me I needed to start preparing myself for the possibility he would need to be put to sleep.

3 days later, Griffin was slightly better, although still sick. The pneumonia had shut down his immune system, which allowed his eye to get infected. Antibiotics were helping but Dr. Jim told me he needed eye surgery that day. Without eye surgery, he would most definitely lose his eye (even with surgery, he might lose his eye) and would for sure die within the next few days. He was still so sick that going into surgery might kill him too. Dr. Jim showed me an X-Ray of Griffin's respiratory system and told me his trachea (the breathing tube) was so narrow it was like breathing through a straw. He had major lung damage and would be sick the rest of his life.  He told me that I should consider taking him back to the former owner because Griffin's health problems were just beginning.
The vet has a statue that looks just like Olivia. This was the day
I took Griffin to find out if we would have to put him to sleep or not.
As we waited to check in, he rested his head on her head. 
As I sat on the floor crying, I petted my very sick puppy as he looked at me with droopy eyes. I am not rich and wasn't prepared for hundreds of dollars in dog health care. If that had been Olivia, there would have been NO reasoning- I would have mortgaged my house for her. But Griffin had only been mine for 4 weeks. Why hadn't I had him checked out by a vet before I took him home? When the former owner told me Grif didn't have any vet records because "you can buy farm vaccines for a fraction of the price"- shouldn't that have been a red flag? Why did I get attached without any thought? I had looked from my perfect, gorgeous baby with her smooth, shiny coat to that muddy, goofy, wheezy puppy and all I could think of was scooping him up and bringing him home. Grooming had helped make him look better, but I still had a mess of a dog.

I couldn't even consider dropping him off to die and I knew that spending $600 would be easier than imagining those pathetic, droopy eyes begging me for mercy for the rest of my life.

Griffin made it through surgery and over the next few days, made a solid recovery. When the course of antibiotics ended, he immediately got sick again, but luckily, the vet was able to call in a prescription and once he was back on medication, he was fine.We made it though the summer and I was feeling good about Griffin's prognosis. In September, he had another surgery to repair some of the damage to his eye from the first surgery. He was still on antibiotics, but doing well.

In October, he got sick again, this time while on antibiotics. For over a month, we were at the vet every week- he had constant problems but they didn't have a solution. They put him on a new antibiotic, but for $50, it only lasted 12 days and I was unsure how long I could afford to keep that up. Griffin started peeing the bed without waking up, had green snot running out of his nose and stopped eating regularly. After 7 nights of getting up every few hours, I was exhausted, frustrated and stressed out. On the 8th night, I woke up and realized I was wet. Groggy and confused at 3am, I turned on the light and realized Griffin had peed and pooped all over me. I froze for a moment, not sure how to react. That was my breaking point. At 28, plastic sheets and sleepless nights were not something I could live with.

That morning, I called bulldog rescue and found out that he wasn't adoptable. They suggested I contact Dr. Jim to see what he would recommend. He told me our last chance was to do palate surgery. Most dogs, even dogs as sick as Griffin come out of palate surgery and never get sick again.


I gasped as if he had punched me in the stomach. I didn't even want to pay $50 more, much less $1300. He told me he knew I was at my wits end and I'd done a lot for Griffin and that we just needed to get him healthy. He offered to do the surgery for $700. Still a lot of money, but manageable. I didn't have any other choice- I didn't want to get rid of him, but I couldn't continue with him being constantly sick.

Griffin had surgery on October 22. I was pleasantly surprised that even groggy and out of it from surgery, he was already breathing significantly quieter than ever before.

Two weeks after surgery, we took the dogs to the dog park. Usually one person had to hang back with Griffin because he was a pretty slow walker. This time, he took off running, actually sprinting. Danny and I looked at each other in shock. It was like he was a different dog.

Griffin's been off of antibiotics for almost 2 months now and he hasn't been sick once. He runs, he plays, he chases a ball with Olivia, he's active and happy. It's like a miracle and I am amazed at the physical change I see in him. I still worry there will be more hurdles, but for the time being, he's a playful, lovable 2 year old puppy.

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