A Thousand Thanks from New Mexico

Back in July of 2011, we received a phone call from a gentleman named Kyle who was looking to schedule an appointment for a rhinoscopy for his pooch. Everything seemed fine until he explained to us he is currently in New Mexico and lives there as well. Kyle was doing some online research on what could have been causing his pooch, Oakum, to sneeze excessively, when he came across a previous blog entry of ours on a patient named Ice Bear who had a foxtail or two lodged in his lungs. This story prompted Kyle to give us a call and schedule an appointment with our Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon Specialist, Dr. Carl Koehler to help figure out what was going on with his beloved dog, Oakum.

Below you will find the detailed recount of events that Kyle went through as a pet owner with a pet in distress; the moment of panic, the numerous veterinarians and the lengths we as pet owners go to for our pets.

    As we all know, our lives change day-to-day, and often are not even remotely predictable. Events occur in an instant that can completely alter the course and thrust the most well meaning and responsible travelers on that familiar road into a fork, and an unmarked one at that. Life doesn’t come with an ‘‘instruction manual’’, and choices have to be made daily, hourly, minutely, and even second by second. Any one choice can be the wrong choice, and the devil of it is, you almost never find out until it’s too late to select ‘‘reverse’’.

    Living with an animal companion can be a very worthwhile and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, every reward carries it’s own distinct and definite risk. Illness is a very powerful force against those of us who have the fortune to be alive, and just because we love someone or something very much, doesn’t always protect the subject of our respect and our well-wishes. Love can help a great deal, but modern medicine is the only real foe for illness. The claws of medicine are instruments, it’s gaze is one of knowledge. The skill and strategy of medicine lies in the learned, and articulation and agility is empowered and enforced by scholars. To have all four in one place is certainly remarkable, and that is exactly what I found at Encina Veterinary Hospital. I traveled over a thousand miles to challenge my expectations, and when I arrived, I found them distinctly defined, and most certainly exceeded. Quantity is almost never an acceptable substitute for quality, whether it is in a book or a play, in a relationship, or even with veterinarians, quality pays for itself.

    My limits of attention were tested one evening, as I went into the backyard to work on one of my many projects. My dog followed me outside into the yard with which I share with a neighbor, and although I had asked her to keep the gate latched and shut, one way or the other it was left open by mistake, and my dog quickly exited to her delight, as to prowl and ponder the neighbors bushes and lawn. It couldn’t have been more then a minute from when I walked outside and from when I decided that it would be a good idea to check that the yard was secure and everything was OK before I set to continue construction on my home air purifier project. I let the dog out several times a day, and I try to always check that the yard is secure, but it is easier said then done, because the yard is long and the gate is around a blind corner. The dog has gotten out before, for this very same reason, so I was well aware of the danger of the risk of my neighbor leaving the gate unlatched. I had drawn up plans for a supplementary positive latch for the gate, but soon became conditioned after finding the gate closed several hundred times in a row.

    I found the dog right outside, about 20 feet from the gate, and I was quite relieved that I had found her quickly. As I got closer however, something was immediately apparent. My dog was sneezing quite violently, which is something I wasn’t accustomed to. My dog Oak was standing smack in the center of a Foxtail weed thicket, and as I looked closely, I could see that one of the crisp, lightly colored seeds had entered her little black nose. I told her to stop sneezing (a lot of good that did…) and attempted to prise the seed free with one of my fingernails. I have plenty of tools, and I even carry a select general few with me (knife, disposable lighter, ball point pen), but in the short seconds I had to attempt to fasten onto the seed and recover it, my attempts proved vain, and quite hampered by the fact that the animal was having a sneezing fit, and with each sneeze, the seed traveled further and further into the nose. A few sneezes later, it was too late, the seed had entirely disappeared into her nose, and I had to make a decision about what to do next. With my dog continuing to sneeze, I became on the verge of a panic. I figured that the seed could most certainly lodge in the throat of my dog and prevent breathing, (something that may have been entirely incorrect), and feeling totally helpless, I decided to seek assistance at the local emergency clinic. I called on the way to the clinic and was greeted coolly and not-quite-so cordially. Upon arrival, I found only that my helplessness was furthered, after waiting 8 hours for my dog to be sedated and examined with only the short stub of an otoscope, which I could have likely produced myself in that amount of time, and with a far lesser charge. The clinic was dirty, it smelled bad, and the nurses assistant acted like she had gotten in to the medicine cabinet and gave herself a little ‘‘treatment’’. I didn’t have a good feeling, but I couldn’t just change the plan now and give up! Not surprisingly, no seed was located or recovered, and I found myself wondering what to do with the rest of my weekend. Over the course of the weekend my dog continued to sneeze, and so I brought her to my usual general veterinary practitioner. This time, we held Oak to a metal table and again the vet used an otoscope to observe the immediate area local to the opening of the nostril. With the same result of no seed being observed, I again began to wonder about what to do next, as the vet had instructed me to ‘‘wait and see what happens’’. Several days passed, and my dog continued to sneeze and choke, and she became more and more out of character, as she layed around and seemed to be in somewhat of an agony. In my spare time, I researched foxtail seeds and the prognosis. I found that generally, acute foxtail inhalation usually was treated as an emergency, and that it wasn’t so unusual for the seed to enter one of the lungs and cause pneumonia, or pass through the lungs into a blood vessel and end up in the heart or brain and cause death that way. The seed could of course just remain local, and cause infection to the sinus cavity, or it could be expelled or swallowed.

    I’m not the kind of person who just sits by idly, likes to be told what to do, or even does what other people think I should be doing! I just feel better making proactive decisions that change the course of my life the way I feel it should be going. I decided that I again would seek professional assistance to fight illness, and this time I would take the most decidedly extreme approach I could afford or even design. I find that usually if you throw everything you’ve got at a problem and give it your full attention, it has a tendency to wither and disappear, and quickly. I called Denver, Phoenix, Ft Collins, and Santa Fe. In addition, I called every clinic that anybody that had a recommendation had, and still I found that I was either treated queerly and coldly, I was never given a return call, or most importantly, the equipment to look inside of the nasal cavity was not available. I must have called over ten DVMs in all. The stand-out was Dr. Köhler at Encina. I found the clinic while researching. Not only did he actually call me back and took the time out of his busy schedule to answer every question I had (I had plenty), he recommended that I see somebody closer to New Mexico. That was the silver bullet. I knew that someone who would recommend another’s services instead of himself had indeed the character of true responsibility. I again called around Denver and was told that ‘‘no information can be given without an examination of the animal.’’ That’s a nice rule to follow, but rules aren’t always the most practical items.

    My friend helped me drive to make the appointment at 9:15 am in California. We left Albuquerque. at around 2pm and drove through the night to arrive at Encina Veterinary Hospital at 9:10 am. Driving is not the safest of tasks, and my friend and I took quite the risk doing it. If you have one problem, you will be stuck on the side of the road with a sick animal, possibly in severe desert heat. We had no major problems getting to the clinic, but that could have certainly been different. I did have mechanical trouble (wheel alignment) that prevented me from leaving San Fransisco immediately. So take this medicine with a pinched nose, and be sure to explore all the information you have before making a decision.

    Using fiber-optics, there was a determination made that irritation was most certainly present in the side of the nostril that I saw the seed enter. No seed was found however, which indicates that it had become mobile and exited the body or located itself in another part of the body. It could most definitely have been swallowed, and since the chest radiograms were clear, and Oak is no longer sneezing or showing any symptoms, I may never find the seed, and I hope I never do 🙂

A thousand thanks from New Mexico,
Kyle C.

Kyle has sent us an updated picture of Oakum and has shared with us that he has trained her to now respond to a hand-bell so she comes inside to a pleasant sound!

Meet Melina…And Melina!

We couldn’t have been more surprised when a very cute new patient strolled into our hospital on a Sunday morning this fall…because she shared a very uncommon name with one of our client service representatives! Melina is truly an uncommon moniker, as it is number 2,397 on the list of popular names in the United States. Both Melinas you see above share a warm and friendly personality and beautiful brown eyes. Please send us your unusual pet names at blog@encinavet.com!

How Do You Roo?

The Punisher, Relaxing in His New Home

We were all very sad when we learned that the parents of one of our star patients, The Punisher (affectionately known as TP) were relocating down to Australia earlier this year. TP’s dad took a job on Curtis Island, which means that his parents packed up and headed Down Under to open up a new chapter in their lives. TP has stayed behind in the US, but his mom keeps in contact via Skype and Facebook. TP’s mom Jennifer has found some new friends who work in wildlife rescue, and she sent us some awesome pictures of some of her new companions. It is not uncommon in Jennifer’s circle to rescue baby kangaroos, many of whom became orphaned when their mothers were hit by cars. Jennifer herself is looking to foster a brushtail possum, as ‘roos require a lot of land and a long-term time commitment of over a year. Please enjoy some of Jennifer’s pictures, and we look forward to staying in touch as their Australian adventures unfold!

It's A Little Baby 'Roo!

It Doesn't Get Much Cuter Than This

What, You've Never Seen A Marsupial Before?

Pretty Birds

He's Good at Blending In

Jennifer and Her Amphibian Friend