This is the long and frightening story of how I nearly had to euthanize my dog Buddy due to inexpensive treatment options being ignored in favor of more expensive tests and surgery instead. If it were not for the caring and wonderful staff at Inver Grove Heights’ Southview Animal Hospital my fun-loving and happy dog would be gone and my family would be without one of the warmest and most friendly animals to ever walk the planet just because $45 in medications do not add up to the hundreds of dollars in surgeries/tests several other vets required prior to attempting the inexpensive therapy we ultimately utilized to save his life.
Starting back nearly a year ago Buddy began developing a small dry patch on his nose. Originally diagnosed and treated as a formidable fungal infection by our vet of 7 years at Palomino Pet Hospital, the treatment never really resolved the issue. While we had him treated several times for the problem over the next few months Buddy never seemed too bothered by the issue so we let it go. However, beginning in November 2010 what was originally nothing more than an unsightly scabbing of his nose grew to engulf the entire end of his snout and eventually spread to create bloody and crusty lesions on the bridge of his nose, his eyes, chin, mouth, ears, and neck. He was clearly in pain and his personality began to change as well. Our happy, active dog began to spend most of the day curled up on the couch. Things had taken a turn for the worse and we decided to bring him in again.
It was at this visit that our vet said that he could continue administering the treatment he had been using or we could test for a veritable smorgasbord of potential ailments . He suggested an allergy test, a thyroid test, a biopsy, along with several others. We knew that we could lay out hundreds of dollars for just one of those tests and be no closer to an answer. After talking it over we decided to get a second opinion.
Our next attempt came at Apple Lake Animal Hospital. After our experience at Palomino Pet Hospital I began doing extensive research online and determined, 95% at least, that Buddy’s issue was a condition called Discoid Lupus, an auto-immune deficiency disorder. After explaining the situation and all that had been done in the past up to and including my unprofessional diagnoses and our financial situation, we were told that they agreed that he had an auto-immune problem, but said they would require an expensive biopsy in order to confirm the diagnosis and determine a course of treatment. The vet explained that the biopsy would narrow the list of possible auto-immune disorders into the teens or low twenties and would give them a much better shot at properly treating my animal. I left the appointment in tears knowing full well that the biopsy was out of our acceptable price range for something that wouldn’t even include the cost of actually treating Buddy’s problem.
Over the next few days I called around to other vets in the area. The only one to answer my question agreed with Apple Lake’s assessment, a biopsy would be required prior to any other therapy. Soon after this, following a particularly nasty episode of Buddy rubbing his face on the carpet to scratch at the infected lesions around his eyes and nose that we decided our only option would be to let Apple Lake Animal Hospital know that since we could not afford the biopsy we would need to put Buddy down unless they were willing to treat him empirically with medication. We hoped that the vet at Apple Lake would be willing to give medication a try knowing the alternative. We were surprised and saddened to learn that the vet who had seen Buddy refused to give him the drugs and cited several reasons why it would not be an acceptable course of action without the biopsy.
Without much left to do I called my father to break the bad news. My father works for a facility which employs a number of veterinarians–one of whom is his boss. She did some research on Lupus in dogs and called several other vets who agreed that in ANY auto-immune disorder the absolute first option, prior to any surgeries or biopsies, is to try hefty doses of oral steroids to see if the immune response can be limited. Once the lesions are eliminated the dog is slowly backed off the dosages to see what level needs to be maintained to keep the animal healthy. Following her research she suggested I continue my search to find a vet who would treat Buddy in the way we wanted.
Energized I decided to give it one more day and I talked to my coworker who runs a cat rescue. Figuring she may have connections with the dog world and knowing it couldn’t hurt at this point I asked, with tears welling up in my eyes, if she could help us save Buddy. Seconds later she began furiously writing down the names of metro animal hospitals, individual veterinarian names within those hospitals, and phone numbers to call. The list was topped with Southview Animal Hospital–it was her top pick because they are willing to do whatever they can to treat animals within clients’ budgets and in her experience they are not inclined to view expensive treatment options as the first and only course of action. She called ahead and told them the situation and that I’d be calling. I followed up about 30 minutes later and they asked me to have Buddy’s records sent and that they’d be waiting for us. On arrival the looks on the faces of those in the office, both animal owners and experienced vets and techs, were of horror. Buddy did look absolutely terrifying with his bloody, puss filled eyes and nose but I kept telling him and myself that we’d save him.
And save him we did! Within three days of beginning treatment of steroids Buddy’s face had dried up into white scaly skin. Within 30 days he was acting like himself again–playful, happy, tail wagging; something we hadn’t seen in weeks. Within 60 days he was 98% healed with only a tiny bit of pink on the tip of his nose remaining. His nose was wet again, his eyes were nearly free of lesions, and we were out all of $145 over three office visits and two steroid pill refills something which would have likely been the outcome following the pricey estimates we’d received elsewhere. Not only were the treatment options less expensive but so were the office visits–approximately 50% as much as what we were charged elsewhere.
The vets and staff at Southview Animal Hospital saved my dog and my soul. My dog is my second child and he means the world to me and many of those who have met him. Southview Animal Hospital has gained a patron of their services for my entire time in Minnesota and I cannot express my feelings for what they have done for us any more strongly than they deserve every single person’s business even though they are several miles further away than many of the other local vets here in the South Metro. Please support the vets who are willing to go the extra mile and ensure that your animal isn’t unnecessarily euthanized because you cannot afford expensive surgery when viable alternatives exist for a fraction of the cost.
Southview Animal Hospital
32 Mendota Rd
Inver Grove Heights, MN 55077-1122
Feel free to look through the possibly disturbing photos of Buddy’s recovery beginning on December 20th and ending through February 9th on Flickr here.