Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's Done a Million Times a Day

It's done a million times a day, but it's different when it's your puppy. This morning I dropped Boost off at the vet's to be spayed. The operation will be done around noon and I'm supposed to call around 4:30, when she should be reasonably woken up, to check how things went.

One of the benefits of being so immersed in the World Of Dogs is that I get tremendous amounts of information about dog training, behavior, feeding, health, activities, genetics...you name it. One of the disadvantages is that I get enough information sometimes to be frightening. I've heard so many stories in recent years about dogs who do badly under anesthesia, and particularly about performance dogs. So the stories say that it has to do with the type of anesthesia, or the overuse of anesthesia, or the "pre-anesthesia" that the dogs get before they go into the operating room, or the quantity (or lack) of body fat, or the breed of the dog, or who knows what.

We had a big email discussion two weeks ago on this topic among my dog-agility club members—about 170 well-educated, dog-experienced, worldly, knowledgeable people. And what it came down to was that everyone had a horror story about themselves or about someone they could specifically identify by name (including someone who uses my same vet), and could identify trends that many people seem to be aware of, but no one could cite published articles or specific recommendations by vets (although some apparently avoid certain anasthesias but not for any well-researched reasons).

One lady runs a blood bank for dogs—the only one in CA, one of the few in the country (and one that contributed to Remington's well-being during his last months whenever he needed transfusions); they won't use Border Collies at all as donors because of problems they've had with the breed. I meant to grill her this weekend for details, as she was my partner for Team Relay, but I just didn't even think of it at the right time all weekend.

I asked so many more questions of my vet this time around than I ever did with my first puppy, back in 1978. We had quite a long discussion about "old wives' anesthesia tales" and about modern techniques for administering anesthesia and so on. And yet, when I walked out of the vet's office this morning after leaving Boost there, I was shaking and on the verge of tears.

I don't know how much of my concern is the "little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing" syndrome, and how much is the German Shepherd who lived across the street from us when I was in about 3rd grade who died while being spayed. Of course that was (gasp) almost 40 years ago, which probably put it in the stone age of dog medical care, but that has remained such a sharp and frightening memory all these years. Still, I don't remember feeling this way when Amber was spayed (ack—yes—over 25 years ago?!).

One of my club members commented to me this weekend that she's a vet tech and has helped put hundreds or thousands of dogs under anesthesia and never thinks twice about it and things work out fine—but, when it's her dog, it scares the heck out of her. So I'm not alone...

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