Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Miscellany: Opal Update

Monday is the day for miscellaneous topics

Using my patented method for finding pet-related service providers, I lucked into a really good vet here in Little Rock, at the Cloverdale Animal Hospital on Baseline Road. This clinic had the distinct advantages of 1) being able to see Opal first thing this morning, and 2) being close enough to take the scooter since Sean was busy dealing with the bus leak.

Dr. Mike Gillum was very knowledgeable and helpful. The tentative diagnosis is Coccidioidomycosis, or "desert flu," a fungal infection that is common in both dogs and people that have recently visited Arizona or New Mexico. This is consistent with the type of cough she has, the time frame of 7-10 days since exposure, the mild lesions on her lung that show up on X-ray, and the fact that her white blood cell count is not elevated (like it would be for a bacterial infection.) It is also possible that she has Bordatella, or kennel cough, although she has been vaccinated against that. He reassured me that Opal most likely does not have lung cancer or heart disease, although in older dogs such things are always a possibility.

The only way to be certain of the fungal infection is to send a blood sample off to the state's testing lab. Dr. Gillum thought we would have those results by Wednesday. In the meantime, he prescribed medication for the coughing and a diuretic to help clear the fluid out of her lungs. We also have an anti-fungal medication, but won't start that until after Wednesday, if necessary.

If the results are inconclusive and/or her symptoms get worse, I will call Dr. Gillum to get his recommendation for a vet in another town. Turns out he is very active in the Southwest Veterinary Symposium and knows many of his colleagues across this part of the country. Of course I can call him anytime about any new symptoms Opal shows in the next week or so. I'm definitely adding this guy to my Rolodex!

No matter how carefully I try to screen vets and kennels for our pets, the truth is that any new vendor can be the wrong choice. Once when they simply needed vaccinations, I found a vet that looked good on paper. We sat on the bench in the exam room with Opal next to us on the floor, in the corner. This guy (I don't remember his name or the clinic; sorry) marched right into the exam room and without so much as a little gentle talking first to draw her out and build some trust, reached down to lift Opal's lip and look at her teeth. She bit him, of course. Wouldn't you? Big tall stranger looming over you in a scary-smelling vet's office? He even stuck his fingers in her mouth to make it more convenient to bite them. But since all we needed was the shots, I didn't worry too much about this guy's bad bedside manner.

Today, Dr. Gillum spoke softly to Opal, approached her slowly and was exceedingly gentle with her. She licked his hand. When she needed to go in the back to have blood drawn twice, the staff let me pick her up to calm her. All good signs. Let's hope that we have a firm diagnosis on Wednesday.

If you're wondering how Opal rides on the scooter, the answer is quite well, thank you very much. We have a mesh backpack dog carrier similar to this one. The handles loop around the scooter's handlebars and the bag sits on the floorboards. The top of the pack has an elastic closure that allows Opal to stick her head out but not escape. She sits comfortably on the floorboards inside the bag and peeks around the front fairing to get her snout out in the wind. I'm thinking about getting her a helmet, too. Next time she rides the scooter, I'll try to get a photo.

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