Last night around 8pm, Meeko and Snickers were sleeping on the couch, waiting to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with me. Snickers saw a dog commercial and started barking at the TV. Meeko was still laying down, but looked like she was trying to get up. Watching her carefully, I realized something was wrong. Her head was jerking upwards every few seconds, and she didn’t seem to be doing it on purpose.
After standing her up on the floor, I realized Meeko was having muscle spasms all over. Her head was twitching, her front legs were stiff and also twitching, and her back legs seemed stuck in a slightly bent position. Snickers sniffed her and put her ears back, even she knew something was wrong. I waited, hoping Meeko would suddenly get better. Maybe her legs fell asleep from sleeping weird? After 1 minute of watching her, she wasn’t any better. Her eyes were darting back and forth and she couldn’t focus on me. Could she be having a seizure?
My heart started to pound as fear kicked in. I’d never seen a dog seizure before, but Meeko was clearly not in control of her own body. I didn’t have an emergency vet set up in San Francisco yet, so I called our regular vet, Blue Cross Animal hospital, hoping for an automated message with a “if this is an emergency, please call…”
Instead, a sleepy sounding voice answered. I think it may have been one of the doctors. I explained my situation, and thankfully he gave me the name and number of an emergency animal hospital. It was a twenty minute drive. Under normal circumstances, I would have researched the hospital and weighed my options with other places. But, fearing Meeko might have permanent damage from whatever was going on, I got her leash on and ran out the door. Snickers actually tried to come with us and became very agitated when I forced her to come back inside.
Around 8:30 we arrived at All Animals Emergency Hospital. Meeko was still spasming and acting strange. She insisted on sitting in my lap the whole drive (usually she is happy to look out the window from the passenger’s seat). As soon as we arrived, Meeko was taken to the back. This immediately heightened my fear because there were other people in the waiting room. Was Meeko’s condition more serious than I thought? Half an hour later, I had no news from and Doctors, only the receptionist telling me “the doctor will see you soon”. At this point, I was just trying not to cry. My new theory was maybe Meeko had some kind of seizure disorder that was surfacing now that she was older.
I finally got into one of the rooms and the Doctor came to talk to me. Still no sign of Meeko. He started asking me some questions, but all I wanted to know was if Meeko had gotten any worse. “Um, is she still alive?” I asked. “Oh yes, she’s doing about the same”
His best guess was Meeko at something toxic, like chocolate, nuts or pot. I informed him that she had not eaten any of those things, or anything else weird today. The doctor asked if we’d gone to a dog park, “Sometimes when dogs are at the park they run off and end up eating a homeless person’s marijuana” Well we weren’t at any dog parks that day, or the day before. Also, is this really that common of an occurrence After some more questions and somewhat vague answers from the doctor, I realized that Meeko hadn’t been tested for anything yet. After he left, the receptionist came in with an estimate of $1200 to keep Meeko at the hospital overnight, give her an IV and do bloodwork. Toward the end of our conversation, Meeko was finally brought into the room, already having that vet/kennel smell. She was still twitching and was very lethargic in my lap. I cried, not knowing what was wrong with her and not hearing any answers from the vet was really upsetting me.
Now I am not an expert dog owner, but even through my fear and worrying I could see something was not right. How could they know that Meeko needed to stay at a hospital all night if they did not know what was wrong with her and had not done any testing yet? I posed this question, though more tactfully, and the receptionist left to see what the doctor thought about Meeko not staying overnight. I informed her I was happy to wait with Meeko a few hours rather than pay for them to hold her.
Another 20-30 minutes later a vet tech came to take Meeko back. They had decided they could do her blood testing right now. My sense of “something’s not right” was now validated– maybe they just wanted to keep her overnight so they could do her testing later when they weren’t as busy. (Though I don’t think 4-6 families is very busy over the span of 3 hours)
With testing scheduled to take another “twenty minutes” I called Ashwin and gave him the update. Being the awesome boyfriend that he is, he jumped on his computer and tried to research what else might be going on with Meeko. He even paid to chat with a vet online as a way of a second opinion. (This vet asked some very good questions, and in hindsight, I would definitely recommend this option to anyone who can’t take their dog in to an emergency clinic. This vet’s theories were Meeko licking flea oil off of Snickers, other toxins, or a seizure condition.)
Close to 11pm I was back in one of the rooms waiting for the blood test results. They were all normal. The Doctor explained that this ruled out certain toxins (like gum- her blood sugar would have dropped). After these results, he felt very strongly that Meeko had eaten some pot on the street. I explained Meeko’s tendency to eat things as we walk and how this has made me (usually) hyper alert to her eating/chewing anything. I hadn’t noticed her eating anything on our very short walk that day, but with a pot dealer on our street every evening, it was a possibility Meeko had found something to eat. I wondered if this was a common problem given San Francisco’s relationship with drugs and a love of doggies.
Reunited with Meeko, I realized most of her spasms were gone. When I put her on the floor of the little room, she began looking for treats. Someone was feeling better! This improvement in behavior supported Meeko eating something toxic. After two more revised estimates (the second one still had Meeko staying overnight for $800) I settled with paying $420 for an office visit, blood work, and sub fluids. These fluids got injected into Meeko’s neck right under the skin, making her look like a camel. Her body slowly absorbed the liquid, which was supposed to help rehydrate her and make her pee out any remaining toxins.
By 11:00pm we left the vet’s office. Meeko was exhausted but seemingly better. I am accepting the diagnosis that she somehow ate some pot and will be extremely careful with future walks and park trips. Obviously I am glad this wasn’t some kind of neurological disease, and a part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have taken her to an emergency place at all. But, I had no idea all her symptoms could be attributed to toxins (now I, and you, know what it looks like!) Essentially, the only cure was for Meeko to ‘pee it out,’ which she finally did after we spend 30 minutes looking for a parking spot.
Lessons to take from this: Always ask questions about your vet bill! And of course, don’t let your dog eat pot.