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Butterfly’s Weird Health Problems

Butterfly's First Day Home

Butterfly’s First Day Home

 

Butterfly refused to take pills. The veterinary technicians at the animal shelter couldn’t get her to take her de-wormer pills before sending her home with us in November and she wouldn’t even chew the new de-worming medicine that comes in a tiny meatloaf shape. We tried wrapping it in turkey, crumbling it into chicken soup, spreading it with peanut butter. Nothing worked. She ate the turkey and spit out even the smallest crumb of the medicine, which Cricket made every attempt to steal, because she loves the stuff.

We finally found these Pill Pocket treats the other day. They look like gummies and stretch to fit the medicine. It took four treats, but for the first time in three months, Butterfly got her whole dose of medicine down. I could finally stop imagining the slithering little worms crawling around and sucking the life out of her from the inside.

My fear isn’t completely unwarranted. Butterfly’s heart is already fragile. She was diagnosed with a level four Mitral Valve Insufficiency, which the vet told us could develop into congestive heart failure at any time, requiring daily medication. If she continued to spit out even the easy medicine, no telling what she’d do with actual pills. The fear of her developing serious heart problems, or any other health problems for that matter, has been hanging over me from the first day we brought her home. I watch her anxiously every time she sneezes or coughs or seems to sleep too deeply.

The anxiety blossomed about a week after she came home, She was shivering in the doorway of the living room and I picked her up to comfort her and saw this lump protruding from her lower belly. I pressed on it and it moved around under her skin. Mom thought it could be a hernia, or just constipation pushing forward. Butterfly was coughing and shaking and I was worried, because the vet had warned us that coughing could be a sign of congestive heart failure. We called the clinic attached to the shelter she came from, but couldn’t get an appointment for another two days. The clinic had her records and was inexpensive and had just seen her a week before, but I was starting to panic. I was afraid we’d have to rush Butterfly to a doggy emergency room first thing in the morning.

I brought Butterfly upstairs and put her on my bed. She fell asleep and then, finally, I did too, but I woke up when she vomited, and then stayed up with her as she vomited three more times. I was getting ready to look up numbers in the phone book, wishing for a doggy ambulance because I was too freaked out to drive, when she started to walk around. Then she ate her breakfast as if everything was fine. I kept checking her protrusion as the day went on, and gradually, it disappeared. Coincidentally, she pooped five times that day. Really big pooping.

We cancelled the vet appointment, because I didn’t want to stress her out with more doctor visits than necessary. But, also, I was afraid they would dismiss me as a hysterical dog mommy imagining problems that weren’t really there, now that the evidence was gone.

 

My Happy Girl

My Happy Girl

And for a month, Butterfly was fine. Then, one night, I noticed she was licking her lips obsessively and having trouble sitting and lying down. She was having muscle spasms around her waist that were rippling down her back. I worried next to her overnight, feeling incompetent and in over my head. But the protrusion and the spasms disappeared by the morning and haven’t reappeared since.

In fact, after all of the awfulness, wherein I felt suicidal for clearly failing my dog, Butterfly was back to smiling and being happy and ready to play. If all of that vomiting and coughing and spasming had happened to me, I would still be moping and cursing God months later, but Butterfly just shook it off and went back to being a dog.

I worry that I should have taken her to the vet anyway, even though there was nothing left to see. I worry that she needs a special doggy nurse, and a doggy psychiatrist too. I keep worrying that I’ve taken on a situation that is too big for me, and the after effects of her life in a puppy mill will pose too much of a challenge, and I will fail her. But then she makes me think it over again.

The other night we had a lot of wind and rain, and my bedroom, the attic, is like a wind tunnel, so the sound was exaggerated, and Butterfly was frightened. She woke me up at three o’clock in the morning trying to stuff her head into my armpit. I used to do that with my Mommy when I was little too. She crawled over me and around me and curled against me, but she couldn’t find any position that worked for more than ten seconds at a time.

Finally, by five a.m., she sat down by my chest and stayed there for the rest of the night. She seems to think I’m trustworthy, and I’d like to believe her judgment is sound.

 

Butterfly and her crazy hair

Butterfly really likes her scratchies.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

66 responses »

  1. I understand exactly where you’re coming from. If only they could tell us where it hurts, how it hurts, etc. I feel so completely helpless when one of my little animals is out of sorts. I’m glad Butterfly recovered.

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  2. It sounds as though you have done a wonderful job. Yes, it is hard taking on puppy mill dogs but she has clearly bonded with you incredibly well and trusts you completely. What a difference for her, to have a life like that. The gummies are great for pets that refuse meds. I had the opposite with my late Dalmatian, who used to think that pills were a treat of some kind. I’d give her one and she’d chew on it and then beg for more. They all react so very differently.

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    • Cricket loves the new heartguard treats, and she was always good with the pills before, as long as they were slathered in peanut butter. But she would eat a whole bag of the pill pockets if she cold get her paws on it. She would take pills every day just for the gummies.

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  3. Poor mum and poor baby! You both sound as though you came through it unscathed. The worry is worse than children, or am I just a bad parent? Xxxxx

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    • Whenever I see Butterfly sitting in the hall and shivering (she does this a lot) my worry meter starts to go, and then she relaxes and smiles and plays and dances around and I feel that too. It’s like I’ve got electrical cords attaching me to her and her emotions. Which is great, and terrible.

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      • I hope you don’t mind me sending this to you but I am OCD about researching things that I think may help others even if I am not asked. But found the following, it is sent with the best intentions and love to Butterflys mummy because Rufus dog doesn’t want her to worry too much. xxxxxxx
        “Behavior based:
        Good signs that the shivering is behavior based is that it is NOT constant. She doesn’t shake when she is eating, playing, interested in her walks or “gets to go for a ride,” etc. Shivering can be a symptom of stress, separation anxiety, and or fear. See this site for more inf:

        http://ezinearticles.com/?Do-Dogs-Feel-Sress?

        Dogs can also use shivering as an attention getting behavior. Remember, dogs will repeat a behavior that gets a positive response. That’s the whole premise of positive rewarded–based dog training. So just like sitting politely (dog’s behavior) brings forth a cookie (positive reinforcement), some dogs have found that shivering (dog’s behavior) brings forth mom’s concern in the form of attention (positive reinforcement.)

        If you think this may be the problem you will need to determine what initiates this behavior and how you may be unconsciously rewarding the behavior. For example– if she only starts to shiver when you start to leave the house and you notice the shivering and come back to pet her and “reassure her that its ok” then you are rewarding the shivering behavior. As long as the shivering is rewarded the behavior will continue! To extinguish this behavior you will need to start ignoring the shivering and reward her and pay attention to her when she is NOT shivering. You can also try distraction by playing games with her working and reinforcing her basic obedience skills. Remember NO positive reinforcement when she is shivering!

        In short, make sure there are no medical reasons for her shivering and if not, then address the behavior issues. You also might find it helpful to enlist a good trainer to help you with her behavior issues if needed. Just make sure the trainer is a positive, reward based trainer!

  4. Had it happen to my dog I would have worried my wits out. Hats off for keeping your head together. I hope butterfly would continue being ok. Don’t pass the chance to still have her checked by the vet. I love reading about her and cricket.

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  5. Poor Butterfly but poor you too. The pill problem is sometimes hysterical but most often frustrating 😉 Glad you’ve found something that works.

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    • I’d gotten so used to Cricket’s peanut butter addiction – you could slather peanut butter on a sock and she’d eat it happily – that I was flummoxed when it didn’t work with Butterfly. I think the dogs adapt faster than I do. They just shake their heads at their dippy humans.

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  6. I agree with you … 100%. The pill pocket treat sounds good – think we could need such a thingy too :o)

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  7. Aw poor doggie! I often feel helpless when my doggie is sick. There is no harm in taking your dog to the vet even though the “evidence” is gone. It sounds like Butterfly is have digestive problems. The vet can simply listen with the scope and if things sounds off they can do an xray. Better safe than sorry! My dog is a small dog and she is sensitive. If she eats people food her stomach starts making awful noises and it plumps up and I have give her tummy rubs until she poops. Sometimes she throws up when she eats stuff that isn’t dog food.

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    • Thank God, Butterfly hasn’t had any more problems with her belly. She has discovered the joys of roasted chicken and she LOVES her dry dog food. But I watch her very carefully for signs of trouble.

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  8. I was lucky, I could give both Dudley and Zoe 3 pills at once so long as they were surrounded by peanut butter. I freely admitted to the vets that I’m an overbearing, worried dog mom, but they were always understanding. In addition to the docs and staff at the vet office, I also had a vet that would come to the house. She came every year for their yearly check up and she did come in the end with Dudley. If you can get a vet you like that makes house calls it does save on the nervousness of taking them into the office. I hope it was just something she ate and nothing more serious.

    Reply
    • For some reason, Butterfly is immune to the lure of peanut butter. She thinks everything should taste like chicken. We have a good vet, but he’s not so much with the bedside manner. Cricket tends to climb behind my neck when she goes in for her check ups. That’s fourteen pounds of puppy wrapped around my neck, nails digging into my skin for support.

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  9. We dogs have more self-healing powers than humans give us credit for.

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  10. Thank you for “liking” my Sunday post…(dog and 2 cats on bed)….and Yes it is so worrisome when your critters fall ill…I have had pets of one kind or another all my life. No matter how much you feel you understand them and know about them, there are times when you truly feel helpless when they are hurting. As one person stated, animals have more self-healing powers than humans give them credit for.

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    • There’s so much about doggy intelligence that is a mystery to me. They can tell time without clocks and train their humans without clickers. I try to never underestimate these guys.

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  11. Thanks for liking my post, rachel! I love this site and this post is really cool. Butterfly sounds like a really good name for a dog. Did you name her that or did the shelter? Get back to ya soon! 🙂

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  12. Anyone who says that dogs are not like children clearly has never owned a dog. Winston has random bouts of diarrhea and sometimes is sick. He has been given the all clear from the vet twice now and I’m starting to worry that it’s all in my head.
    I think we have every reason to worry endlessly about our furry children. Because that’s exactly what they are, a smaller, more vulnerable being that requires our love and attention to grow into a healthy happy individual (dog).

    I hope little Butterfly stops scaring you though, I can’t imagine it’s too much fun lol.

    All the best to you and your poochies 🙂

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    • Thank you so much. The girls just had their baths and took their monthly meds, and…we all survived. Cricket did her crazy barking run around the apartment and Butterfly looked at me like I was torturing her, but now they are eating chicken and don’t know what all the fuss was about. Short memories are a good thing.

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  13. Aw poor baby, and poor you with all the worrying. Hope you both stay well. Monty sends kisses to you all. : ))xxx

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  14. My Mollie had a stroke about 4 years ago and has to take three pills a day. (It was four until we regulated it, and I have weekly pill box to keep it organized.) We started with peanut butter and it worked for a while. Now, we wrap them in cheese. The older she gets (16 now) the more she turns her nose up at the pills. She will finally give in, but sometimes it’s a battle.

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  15. Glad Butterfly recovered. I know it’s times like that I wish I could read their mind, or at least have some way to judge their pain. It can be very frustrating.**hugs**

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    • I love the bit in the movie “Up” where the dog has a translating collar to interpret his barks and he’s constantly saying “squirrel!” Cricket thinks i have been very lax in not inventing something like this for her. Bad Mommy.

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  16. So happy that Butterfly has you. Thank you for your kind heart. She is such a sweet looking girl and your love and care is all that she really needs.

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  17. I discovered pill pockets for felines when my vet gave me a trial sample and have been using them ever since. Sadly my kitties have passed on but my pups love their pills as long as the pill is disguised as a peanut butter pill pocket treat.

    Try not to stress over Butterfly’s erratic health issue. You are a wonderful mother and are giving her a loving home where she is pampered and cuddled. I’m sure she wouldn’t ask for anything more. : )

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    • They have peanut butter flavored pill pockets? Those could be dangerous. I might be tempted to eat them myself. Butterfly is doing really well, becoming more and more herself (aka stubborn, opinionated, going her own way).

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  18. Good report. Glad Butterfly is better. Nice comment thread as well.

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  19. What a sweet face. I’m glad the pill pockets worked. We use those too!

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  20. Poor little thing – I am sure all the love and attention will make right as rain soon enough. She is adorable!

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    • Thank you! She is very easy to love.

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      • Aww, what a sweetheart Butterfly is Never think even for a single second that you’re an inadequate dog mom! You are awesome. If only more pet parents were like you! Even though I say this and know it to be true, I already know that you will “check yourself” at every crossroad and find yourself lacking even though no one else does. I think we all do that. As dog-moms, we have that inner need to “nurture”, and it completely goes against our base instinct when situations arise that don’t mirror this ideal “picture perfectly.”

        I almost wonder if Butterfly was experiencing very mild seizures? Before I became guardian to Coco Latte’ and Chewiebacca, I had my Bootsie. She was epileptic, and had seizures that ranged in intensity A LOT. Sometimes the seizures would be so slight that no one would notice but me.

        Love your blog! Looking forward to reading more about your fur wrapped miracles!

        XO
        paula (aka otiamaria)

        PS
        Aren’t Pill Pockets the most awesome thing ever??? Forgive the vernacular, but I’d be fairly well screwed if I didn’t have those, lol. People think it’s weird that I got all kinds of excited upon discovering the Peanut Butter Pill Pockets, hehe!

  21. It sounds to me like you are doing a really good job with Butterfly and the problems with her health that have been creeping up. It’s a big job and you will learn everything you need to know along the way. Never forget that Butterfly appreciates your love and your effort and would never want you to be hard on yourself! 🙂

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  22. I will be praying for sweet Butterfly! It is so hard to know what to do since they can’t tell us what they need, but you sound like a wonderful mommie and I am sure she is having a wonderful life due to that! Prayers are with you, too! 🙂

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  23. Hi Rachel, lovely blog and lovely dogs! About butterfly; have you tried grain free food? I use wellness grain free and Charley is so healthy now! Saw similar reactions with other dogs doing poorly. Hope it works!

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  24. I know what you mean about not stressing her out with a vet trip yet worrying just the same. I have a cat who had a urinary blockage almost six years ago but to this day I watch him like a hawk if he spends more time than usual scratching around in the litter box.

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    • I do the thing where I check to make sure the dogs are breathing when they look too calm. They just look so relaxed, it seems unnatural. But thank God, the babies are doing well!

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  25. What a sweet fur baby. I worry about mine, too.

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  26. What a sweetie Rachel! My big old German Shepherd is in love!

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  27. Hi Rachel – My dog Loki (the one who just cost me a weeks wages and my mental health because of an unquantifiable fever) is a junky. he has hip dysplasia, so we soemtimes have to give him anti-inflammatories with painkiller if he overdoes it – he likes the way they make him feel, clearly, because we can feed him any medication really easily, He comes straight over, and opens his mouth when he hears me pop the blister pack.

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  28. What’s amazing are the lessons we learn from dogs how you mentioned she went back smiling right away from an awful experience… challenges are part of life..how fast do we get up and move on? Glad to hear Butterfly is better!

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  29. I love the last paragraph. Thanks for sharing

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  30. She’s beautiful; enjoy every minute with her—-such a precious gift are our pets! Good luck and thanks for the reminder.

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  31. Danny and I both enjoyed the story, but he had to read it to me.

    Reply

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