We are the proud owners of a six month old Mini Goldendoodle puppy named Laci. At some point, she started getting "picky" about her food. She would eat her kibble for a couple of weeks, then she would turn her nose up at it and refuse to eat. We repeatedly tried new foods until we finally had 8 different bags of barely eaten kibble that she refused to eat. We took her to our vet for her vaccinations at 12 and 16 weeks. Both times, we mentioned to our vet that Laci was a picky eater. The vet mentioned she was concerned about her size and her weight and recommended we try adding soft food to entice her. Again, she would eat it a couple times and then refuse it. It got to the point where all I could get her to eat was boiled chicken.
We returned to the vet, this time for the single reason that I could not get her to eat kibble dog food. The vet suspected that Laci had portacaval shunt, a blood vessel that bypasses the liver while the puppy is still in utero and failed to close up after birth. She ordered some very expensive lab work and we waited anxiously for the results. In the meantime, my husband and I got on the internet reading everything we could on liver shunt and it was terrifying to say the least.
The next day the results came back "borderline conclusive" and the vet asked that we bring her back for another set of tests that would require Laci stay there for part of the day, yes, another set of expensive tests. This time, it would take 2 days before the results were in. Again, another anxious wait.
The day after her blood work was done, I came home to find Laci very, very sick. She had a half a dozen pools of vomit and an equal number of diarrhea. She was shaking so I picked her up and brought her outside to see if she would have to use the bathroom again. Instead, she vomited again but with blood in it this time. I scooped her up and ran inside to call our vet. She was not in, so the receptionist referred us to the area emergency clinic.
When we got to the emergency clinic, they did blood work, x-rays, a parvo test (even though I told them she was up to date on all of her shots) and an exam. They asked about her health history and we told them about the latest labs our vet had done. They called over to our vets office who faxed the results from Laci's bloodwork. Her liver bile acids were elevated. The emergency vet interpreted this as liver shunt. She told us our puppy would not survive without the surgery and we needed to get her to a specialty clinic as soon as possible. She told us we could leave our puppy in their hospital where they would keep her on IV's over night until we could get her to either Chicago or Purdue University but we needed to do something quickly. My husband and I were devastated. The vet told us she would leave the room and when she came back we could let her know what we decided. Well, one thing we learned in our liver shunt research was the surgery could run anywhere from 3K to 5K. Recovery could take months of medications, special diets, and lots of lab work to monitor her liver. Our heads were spinning. We did not have pet insurance on her, but we loved her and did not want her to die. The vet returned to the room and we told her we would take Laci to Chicago. She suggested we take her straight there and have her admitted through emergency so she would not have to wait precious days for an appointment with the Internist. Off to Chicago we drove, crying, worried and just besides ourselves. All the way there my husband is saying that he just didn't know what to do. This was way more than we bargained for. We loved her so much but we could not afford to spend 5K or more on surgery.
We got to the emergency clinic in Chicago and sat in the waiting room for 3 hours without anyone even examining Laci. I asked the receptionist for some kind of range in cost for her to be admitted through the ER so she could see the Internist the next day. He said anywhere between $1500 and $2000. ($1500 to $2000 and she would not have even seen the vet yet......) In that 3 hour time, she started to look a little better so we decided to take her home and bring her to Purdue Vet hospital in the morning.
The next day we were on our way to Purdue. It was a long quiet ride. My husband and I were dreading the visit. We were once again faced with that lingering, dreadful question. Where do we draw the line with the amount of money to spend on what seems to be a never-ending search for answers? Over and over again, we were beside ourselves for not having purchased pet insurance. If we had done so, we would not have had to even consider withholding treatment because of cost. We both feared what we would hear and that we would be forced to make a decision that would leave us returning home without our puppy.
Once we got to Purdue University, we were met with another set of bloodwork, iv hydration and stool tests. It was a full day but vets there were amazing. They did not concur with our area emergency room vet who believed Laci was sick because of liver shunt. They said that although her liver bile acids were indeed elevated, they were BARELY elevated and NO WAY near the levels they would find with liver shunt. They suspected either parasites or an intestinal infection. They gave her medications for both and told us if she did not improve by the time the medication was finished, we would need to bring her back to see the Internal Medicine vet.
The next morning she started to vomit again. The vet from Purdue had called right about that point and said we needed to bring her back to Purdue through emergency and they would admit her, hydrate her and keep her until she could see the Internal med vet the next day. I asked her the cost of that hospitalization and she said anywhere between $1200 and $1800. And again, this is the cost before she would even see a vet or have a test done. I decided to give it 24 hours to see what would happen. As the day went on, Laci started to perk up! She ate a little and held it down. Within another 24 hours she was feeling even better. The medication for parasites and antibiotic was working!
In the end, this was a horrible experience. The gross incompetence of our vet in jumping to the conclusion of liver shunt without first testing for parasites or a bacterial infection, led Laci to continue being incredibly sick unnecessarily. This risked her very life and cost us $2,000 in unnecessary tests, ER visits and a lot of grief and despair. Our heartache was compounded by the fact that we hadn't made pet insurance a priority for Laci. The despicable behavior of the emergency vet, who read Laci's labwork and blew things way out of proportion, playing on our fears and sending us to a specialty hospital in Chicago in the middle of the night, is hard to swallow. The only good thing that came from this, besides Laci feeling better, is that we will definitely purchase pet insurance for her now. Regardless of whether or not she ended up having a liver shunt or in actuality, we ended up with an incompetent vet, we are certainly sorry we didn't take advantage of this service. I realize that vets are human who sometimes make mistakes but those mistakes cost us a fortune. Next time we will be better prepared and have peace of mind.