This is not an easy post for me to write considering I'm still pretty emotionally raw from this past weeks occurrences. To be honest I really grappled with even sharing our experiences. Believe it or not I'm actually a pretty private person....sounds like a bunch of malarkey coming from a gal who keeps a blog on every little thing her hunting dogs do but I try to keep a good portion of our private life just that...private. I decided to share our story thus far for two reasons. The first being the frustration I felt when I tried to do online research to read about other people experiences with what we were going through and all I found was the same repetitive medical information. I hope that our story will be able to help someone if they ever find themselves in our situation. The second reason is Cleo and Luna have a pretty large and solid following and something doesn't feel right about leaving people who care about Cleo out of the loop. To those people I apologize for not including you all earlier and please trust me when I say there where many times when I really wanted to let you all know for the moral support I'm certain you would have offered. But the idea of playing this emotional roller coaster ride out publicly without certainty of Cleo's well being or future was entirely too much.
In case you don't know what Mastitis is it's a bacterial infection in the milk ducts of one or more mammary glands in lactating bitches. Mastitis affects humans, it's a huge issue in dairy cows and it can happen to other domestic animals such as sheep, goats, dogs and cats. In canines it can occur from a back up of milk from a nipple getting less use than other nipples, a sharp puppy nail or tooth can cause a cut which then can become infected, or the dog could have sustained a cut or opening another way allowing bacteria to get in, poor diet or poor hygiene and honestly sometimes it just happens. Like many maladies Mastitis can occur to varying degrees from minor to extreme. Mastitis in a severe form can kill your dog. Cleo's case was more along the severe lines. Below is our story. I try to be as detailed as possible.
One week ago on Sunday, December 22nd Cleo became rather restless around midnight. Jimmy got up and took her outside to do her business. When they returned she settled down for a short period of time before she became restless again. Jimmy got up again with her and took her outside once more and then stayed with her while she nursed her pups. The pups had been introduced to solid foods 2 1/2 days prior but Cleo was still nursing whenever she wanted too or felt the need. I'd like to point out that Jim and I were incredibly diligent about keeping the whelping box clean and the puppies nails trimmed. Her diet was spot on and the puppies were using all nipples. When she finished we all returned to bed around 2am. Two hours later it was clear Cleo was in bad shape. She looked like a shell of her self. She had thrown up multiple times and began having severe diarrhea. I took her temperature and it was 104.2 degrees. I told Jim we needed to either call our vets emergency number now or get her to an emergency vet ASAP. We choose to call our vet at 5am four hours before they opened. Our vet called us back immediately and we had Cleo in her office by 5:30am. 5 1/2 hours from the first time she woke up. Her chest was not swollen or warm to the touch at this point.
Second visit on day one. Her chest is finally starting to swell
The vet gave her Sub Q Fluids, did X-rays and took a large panel of blood work and sent her home (we live less than 5 minutes from the vet) pending results. About two hours after we got home Cleo who was already being extraordinarily lethargic became almost catatonic. Her front breasts swelled considerably and became hot to the touch. We put hot compresses on her and tried to get two of the puppies to nurse on her front swollen breast. Neither one would so we tried the largest puppy in the litter and she did feed for a small amount of time before losing interest and going in search of a better nipple. I called out of work and then I called the vet back and she had us come right back in. It was clear that in a few short hours Cleo was on a landslide. They put in an IV, started antibiotics, took more x-rays, expressed the front breasts to see if the milk was clear and it was. In most mastitis cases the milk will be off color and pussy. This was not the case for us. The vet kept Cleo and sent me home to pace frantically. A few hours later the vet called me back. She was very concerned for Cleo and told me that I needed to get her to a board certified vet specialist about 40 minutes away. She said this was moving along too quickly and aggressively. They printed out all the results of the tests they had taken, emailed down copies of the x-rays and I was on my way. Cleo was in such bad shape I had to carry her to my truck once in the parking lot.
12 hours from walking into our vets office I was standing in the lobby of the Emergency vet. They took Cleo right back and had me meet with a vet. They immediately took a milk sample and worked rather vigorously at trying to milk her front swollen breast and after about 25 minutes they reported back to me that puss was finally expelling from it. The milk would later show she had two kinds of bacteria. I gave them a deposit of $1,200 and was sent home. It was a lonely and depressing ride. I called Jim and told him their wasn't enough bourbon in Bucks County to make me feel better.
From Jimmy's visit on Christmas Eve
The next day Jim went and visited her. He reported back that he felt she looked worse and even more swollen. The vets had her on a strong antibiotic called Merrem and were waiting for it to kick in. They told us her blood proteins had really dropped and that was of a concern.
On Christmas we went to visit her together and I was shocked when she was brought in. She looked horrendous. Her front chest into her leg was incredibly swollen (they said from the protein drop) and her breasts and abdomen were huge. She was in visible pain and discomfort. Worst when I had her lay down and I looked at her belly it looked like her nipple was about to abscess and she had two other dark spots. I asked the vet tech to bring us a doctor. I brought my concerns up to the vet and she agreed that they looked like they could abscess. She responded that she had yet to see Cleo since she had been admitted two days ago and was unsure if her current state had gotten worst. I was all, "YES! YES! It's much worst! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT". I'd like to note that the vet practice we took her to was very nice....and expensive. But my biggest gripe was every 10 hours she had a new vet (they employ 15 vets) and I never dealt with the same people. It seemed that every time I spoke to someone they were just getting acquainted with her case. Personally I felt it set us back a day and a half.
Cleo on Christmas blown up like a tick
One of the areas of concern
At 4pm Christmas Day a new vet came on shift and called me to say they felt they should do surgery to release some of the infection and that they would maybe put in tubes. At 7pm they performed the surgery and put in 3 tubes in hopes that drainage would prevent any abscesses from breaking through her skin. The day after Christmas I went and visited Cleo. The swelling she had in her breast area decreased by a 1/3. She was ecstatic at my arrival and wagged her little tail is painful glee while expending large amounts of bloody pus all over the place. I removed her cone and laid on the floor on a blanket of the visiting room and held her. She was very uncomfortable and her one front leg was swollen twice the size of the other one. When it came time for me to leave she became extremely distressed almost desperate. It hurt my heart to leave her and I sobbed the entire 40 minute ride home.
Cleo leaking like a sieve
The picture does not do the swelling justice
Such a sad pupper. :(
The next morning on Friday, December 27th five days after being at the emergency vet they called and told me she had three necrotic holes that broke through over night. One was on her nipple of the infected mammary gland and the other two were in her mid line. They measured 1cm, 1/2cm and 3mm to start. They would eventually get larger. The holes were now draining in addition to the tubes. It was like someone knocked the wind out of me. To make things worst they said after I left Cleo the day before she melted down like Chernobyl and they had to sedate her. They were now keeping her on anti-anxiety meds and that they could never tell me not to come and visit her but I might not want to visit as it was to much for her when I leave. It was the first time in a very long time that once I hung up and started crying I legitimately couldn't stop. For the record I'm no crying sap. Having a black little jaded heart has helped make me a successful fighter....mess with my dog and I transform into a blubbering pile of patheticness.
Luna picking up her Auntie Duties
Since I couldn't come visit I started calling every 5 or 6 hours for an update. It might sound like overkill but with all the staff shift changes and me not being able to see her to be her best advocate I felt I needed to at least stay in their ear. Saturday they felt she finally turned the corner. Her cultures finally came back and they switched her off the Merrem and put her on Baytril. They said as long as she was responding to the antibiotic change we could take her home on Sunday. They felt that at this point she would maybe do better at home in a less stressed environment. So today we went and brought our baby home. She still has her tubes in and is walking petri-dish but she is happy to be home with us and her pups.
How she looked tonight when we got her home. Our first belly inspection.
When we pulled in the driveway Jim got her out of the truck and she ran (as fast as a tubed sick dog can trot) to the back door were a squealing Luna greeted her through the glass. Lu was so amped up that when we tried to get in she locked us back out. Once in Cleo took off through the house and blasted the whelping room door open. I'm pretty sure that all she thought about this entire week was her puppies. She is less then pleased about not being able to get into the box with them.
In Cleo's absence the puppies continued to thrive and they are doing amazing at 4 1/2 weeks of age. We are very happy that is she is home with them and us. Not having Cleo threw off our entire family dynamic. Jim and I were heartbroken and felt like a ship without a rudder. Luna was depressed having never been without her for more than a few hours her entire life. I dare even say the cats missed her. No...that's probably not true. Cats never miss anyone.
Oh we see you back there little man trying to hide in the Christmas presents
Where we currently stand with Cleo is we need the tubes to finish moving the puss and ooze. The necrotic holes will hopefully close on there own. If they don't they will trim them up and stitch them closed. Hopefully the infection and lumpy swelling will come down in that mammary gland. If it does not then we move onto phase two which is a mastectomy of that front mammary gland. Our Mastitis journey is not quite finished yet but at least we are on the up and up and she is still with us. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a very dark time in this last week when thought we might lose her. It's been a long and exhausting week and were looking forward to making some progress on her recovery and life getting back to normal. We also need to find a way to get Luna to stop being freaked out by Cleo's cone. Only Hell Puppy I swear. Anyway, you readers and facebook followers have become an extended family for us and we thank you for your well wishes and support.
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