Sunday, May 23, 2010

Commitment and dedication

I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of my absolute favorite parts of veterinary medicine is spending time in the exam room chatting with clients. What better way to spend one's day than hanging out with people who love animals as much as I do. A lot of my blog topics are born in the exam room during those conversations. Unfortunately my love for gab can get me in trouble sometimes and when I leave the exam room, my techs will give me the "look" and whisper "Code Red". This means the waiting room is filling up with people and I better quit talking about people's kids and where they are going on vacation this year and how their garden is growing. Ooooops. I can get off track sometimes.

A couple weeks back I was seeing Meike, a friendly high spirited German Shepherd Dog, for her annual physical exam. Meike is a special dog because she really would not be alive today if it weren't for the dedication of her owner. As soon as Meike started on solid food at around 6 weeks old, it became obvious that something was wrong. She regurgitated food often and wasn't growing as fast as her littermates.

Here is a picture of Meike's chest x-ray after giving a barium slurry. She was just a small puppy at the time of this radiograph.

As you can see, there is a big blob of barium balled up in the esophagus in the front part of the chest. Turns out Meike was born with something called a persistent right aortic arch. This is a birth defect where a ring of tissue circles around the outside of the esophagus and makes it difficult for food to pass through on the way to the stomach. The danger is that food collects in a pouch in the esophagus and gets regurgitated from time to time. If a little food or fluid leaks down into the lungs, it can cause pneumonia.

Meike went and had surgery done by a surgery specialist. The surgery got rid of the tissue causing the stricture so that food could better pass through to the stomach. The first part of her esophagus still does not function properly though and so Meike has to eat a liquefied diet. The esophagus not returning to normal is quite common in puppies with this condition and is called megaesophagus.

Now Meike is four years old. She is still smaller than her littermates, but her coat is shiny and she is very playful and happy. Every once in awhile, I have to treat her for a bout of pneumonia, but she really has done quite well. I give all the credit to Meike's owner. As I was doing Meike's exam earlier this month, Meike's owner mentioned that every day for four years she has soaked dog food in water and ground it up into a liquid slurry to feed. She said this so casually like this is just something she does and it's not a big deal. Holy cow! This is a huge deal! All I can think about is coming home dog-tired after a long day and whining in my head about having to feed the animals when I really just want to sit down and put my feet up. And all I have to do is scoop some food out of a bag and into a bowl. I will never whine again. Or at least until I'm really really tired and I forget that I wrote this.

So kudos to Meike's owner. I am in awe of her love and commitment to her dog. Meike would truly not be alive today and grace all of our lives if it were not for this devotion. See, what a great way to spend a day talking to people who love animals. I am truly blessed to be able to spend my days this way.

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