Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ratdog 2.0

My little Chihuahua mix Ratdog was evidently not feeling well one evening in August. Initially, we just thought the deaf little yapper had indigestion. But, when he couldn’t walk the next morning, things become serious rather quickly.

“Call the vet right now!” my wife exclaimed. But, our normal vet had a full schedule, so we jumped online. The first name we found when Googling was the San Francisco Pet Hospital on Fulton Street. “Can we bring our dog down immediately?” we inquired and they said “Yes!”Luckily an appointment fell through, and we were able to race the ailing mutt to the clinic post haste.

That was our lucky day, because we ran into Dr. Jessica Hunter, an amazing veterinarian who gave us the facts quickly and kept us informed throughout the process. She was calm while we freaked out by the fact that we could lose our little friend, and that was key because she placated us and focused on the situation at hand without getting emotional.

Money is always a concern when it comes to your pet’s health and it’s always part of the job, according to Dr. Hunter, and in this case it was a major issue with us. Do we drop significant money on this very old dog, or is it time to make a tough decision and go Doggy Kevorkian on the animal?

“Financial considerations are always a major deal, especially during a recession,” Dr. Hunter said. “I give people options so they can decide for themselves. In a perfect world, I want to do as much as I can for the animal, but if people can’t afford that, we can sit down and figure out an alternative if it exists. Hopefully, I can help them with their decisions, so that we all agree on how to treat their pet.”

Dr. Hunter gave us options, which is the best way to go with people like us who aren’t wealthy. “Some clients say do whatever you can to help the animal and others tell us what their budget is. We want people to be comfortable and 100% onboard for what we’re doing. I will present them with what I believe is the best scenario and then we can trim it down if it’s necessary.”

What was Ratdog’s prognosis? “He was profoundly dehydrated and he couldn’t stand,” Dr. Hunter explained.”He had a major oral infection and what I would describe as a raging urinary infection as a result of his decaying teeth. When we got his blood work back, we saw that he had a very high white cell count. The little guy was fighting the major infections. And his kidney numbers were elevated. It appeared as though his kidneys were failing, but we felt as though he might still have an outside chance to make a comeback.”

How close was our beloved mutt close to passing onto doggy heaven? “I would say 24-36 hours,” Dr. Hunter said. “He was basically dying. It looked bad, but he’s a tough little guy and he got in here with little time to spare. Infections such as these can progress quickly, so if you see your dog acting strange or slowing down, get the animal to a vet fast.”

We thought he was a goner, but by hydrating him and getting antibiotics in his system fast, Ratdog rallied and miraculously came back 100%, thanks to the great work by Dr. Hunter and all of the people at SF Pet Hospital.

Dr. Hunter is a 2008 graduate of the UC Davis Veterinary School and she’s been working for a little more than one year for the SF Pet Hospital. She lives in the Mission with Nena, her German Shepherd Husky mix. The SF Pet Hospital has been around since 1900, making it one of the oldest pet hospitals of its kind in the state. Dr. Lee Morris DVM has been running the hospital since 1980 and Dr. Robert Leyba DVM joined the team in 2004.

As Ratdog’s owners, we were obviously a little shocked and upset at the prospect of losing our old friend, but Dr. Hunter said the right things to sooth our nerves and get us on the same page. “People at vet school used to say, ‘we want to work with animals—not people,’” Dr. Hunter said. “But, that’s not the reality of the profession. You have to work with animals and their owners, so you need to learn how to do both.”

How to deal with dog and cat owners is a touchy subject, especially when people are concerned and scared to lose their pets, Dr. Hunter explained. “You can’t talk over their heads by laying a bunch of medical jargon on them they won’t understand and overwhelm them. And on the other hand, you don’t want to talk down to people either. So, it’s a fine line, made worse by stress and uncertainty.”

Amazing vets like Dr. Hunter save animals’ lives every day and never ask for praise, because it’s just part of the job. Ratdog is better than ever and he might just live to be 120. Since his comeback, he’s more annoying, yippy and under foot than ever—we’re calling him Ratdog 2.0—and we couldn’t be more indebted to this doctor who stepped up to keep this little ugly mutt on the planet and gave him a chance to pass on to Canine Heaven the right way—of old age, hopefully many years from now.