Life: Ruby, Story #2

Part One is HERE.

So, we found out Ruby could die if another bee stung her. In our yard we have a huge, beautiful rosemary plant that blooms with purple buds nonstop. Bees love that freaking bush, and it is our nemesis. We rent, believe me, if we owned our house that bush would have been yanked out the minute we found out about the bee allergy. San Diego has blooming flowers, and bees, year round. Avoiding bees can be a full time job…

IMG_1028We were told by multiple vets that the only thing that we could do if Ruby was stung again was to bring her immediately to a vet. That answer made us angry and feel completely helpless. Anaphylaxis can kill in a very short time, and the closest emergency vet, without traffic, is about 15 minutes away.

About 2 months after the bee sting incident I was in a yoga class, and the receptionist came in and whispered to me that my husband was on the phone, and it was an emergency. I ran to the phone and Sean told me to pick him and Ruby up from the park, he thought she’d been stung by a bee because she would not get up. As soon as I arrived, I started breathing easier because I knew that Ruby was not in the middle of anaphylactic shock because she jumped in the car and her tail was wagging.

To be safe and because she was acting a little weird (and Sean still felt really nervous), we took her to the nearest vet, which ended up being total kismet. The vet was about to close, but we explained the situation and they let us in. The calmest, gentlest vet I have ever met listened as I explained to him that we were freaking out taking Ruby outside because of the bees. He fully understood our concerns, and he proceeded to give me an injection kit of epinephrine for Ruby. He measured it out, put it in 2 needles, and then he made me practice giving Ruby an injection. He told us to make sure we carried it everywhere that we went, to always carry gel benadryl tablets (they dissolve faster), and to take a deep breath before doing the injection. I’m not writing the vet’s name down because he is retired now (he retired about a week after we met him, but I’ve emailed with him several times) and because a lot of vets tell you not to use an epipen on your dog.

Having the needles made us a feel a little better. We stopped worrying quite as much. And then, on an early Saturday morning walk, with Ruby smelling like skunk from her run-in a few days before and me jet-lagged from arriving from South Korea the previous night, Ruby lifted up her paw and stopped walking. We were over a mile from our house. We knew almost immediately that she had stepped on a bee because she had a terrified look on her face, and damn it, we did not have the freaking bee kit with us. We debated for about a minute about what to do, and then Sean started running to the house to grab the car and the bee kit.

Once again, I watched Ruby fall apart. Her eyes glazed over, she threw up, and she did not move. Sean runs fast and incredibly he picked us up in about 7 minutes…it felt like forever. I knew I was going to have to inject Ruby with the epinephrine and I braced myself for his arrival. The reason a lot of vets will not give clients epipens is because it can causes paralysis if injected wrong. Scary stuff.

By the time we got Ruby in the car she was almost comatose and barely breathing. Poo started coming out of her (in our brand new car…but whatever), her gums were turning blue, and her eyes were barely open. I thought she was dead. As Sean drove (breaking every traffic rule), I took the scruff of Ru’s neck and injected the vial into her. She gasped, opened her eyes, and I could hear little teeny tiny breaths coming out of her. I tried to stay calm and I repeated over and over that she was a good girl because I did not want her last minutes on Earth to be full of terror and sobs. Once again the emergency vets met us with a stretcher in the parking lot…

I did not think Ruby would make it through this one. I thought they would come out and tell us that she had died. Somehow, the tough little girl survived again.

Most of us have experienced traumatic situations where instinct takes over and things happen in slow motion. The horror and ugliness of the events generally don’t hit until after, and then it is all that you can think about.

Here’s a short list of things that changed after the 2nd bee sting:

  • Always locating the nearest vets before we travel with Ru (and not traveling with her if noIMG_0383 vets are nearby)
  • No more hiking in canyons, trails, or anywhere it would be hard to get a car to
  • Avoid parks where we had previously played fetch (too much clover)
  • Walks before sunrise/after sunset
  • Always walking Ru together so one of us could get the car if needed (she refuses to walk with just one of us now)
  • We tried making Ruby wear booties (not very successful, it made her pretty angry)
  • We did not take Ruby outside if only one of us was at the house
  • Ruby became terrified of things that fly by her (I am sure it is because she watched us freak out)
  • The beach became our safe place
  • Always, always carrying a bee kit and cash in case we had to offer a stranger money to drive us to a vet

We’ve learned from vets that a lot of people euthanize their dogs who have bee reactions like Ruby. Obviously, that option never crossed our minds, but the stress, and the expense of it, is intense.

Part #3, and how we’ve been dealing with the bee allergy coming up…

 

 

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LIFE: Ruby, Story #1

I am not over-exaggerating when I say that Ruby has almost died AT LEAST 5x in her 4.5 short years. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for her. This dog has a good life, and like all animals she has a story. I’m thankful her story is wrapped up in mine.

A few weeks ago I read an article about Dr. Martin Blaser and it made me think a lot about the risks vs rewards of science. Blaser’s research focuses on missing microbes because of antibiotics. An article on the NPR website states:

We have had antibiotics since the mid-1940s — just about as long as we have had the atomic bomb, as Dr. Martin J. Blaser points out — and our big mistake was failing long ago to appreciate the parallels between the two. Antibiotics have cowed many of our old bacterial enemies into submission: We aimed to blast them off the planet, and we dosed accordingly. Now we are beginning to reap the consequences. It turns out that not all germs are bad — and even some bad germs are not all bad.

Blaser believes that antibiotics in young children can cause a gut imbalance of the positive bacteria which may cause a susceptibility to severe allergies. Our overuse of antibiotics, one of the very best discoveries of the 20th century, causes repercussions that are slowly emerging.

For the last few years, I have been 100% convinced that Ruby, our wonderful, crazy, weird lovebug of a dog has horrible allergies because she had 4 courses of antiobiotics in her first 8 months of life. Reading about this research confirmed my suspicions.

As a newly adopted rescue puppy, Ruby came to us with severe giardia and stomach issues. At night, I would fall asleep wondering if she would be alive in the morning. We were at the vet every other week trying to get her fixed – luckily, we had a fantastic vet who assured us that we would get her healthy. It became our mission to cure her. We tried many, many things – among them antibiotics. We gave her antibiotics to cure the giardia 2x. The first dose didn’t work, the 2nd one worked a little better. We gave her another dose of antibiotics after she was spayed. And we gave her a 4th dose after more stomach issues caused her to have blood in her poo.

After the last dose of antibiotics did not fully cure her belly aches, at 8 months old, we had Ruby tested for food allergies. The test cost about $300 – it was worth every penny, because it showed strong reactions to poultry, peas, peanut butter, potatoes, wheat, and eggs. These were all the foods we had been feeding her while she was on antibiotics. Although her food allergies were severe, we were glad to know that there may be finally something that we could do to help her get better.

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We changed her food, and Ruby slowly got better. She gained weight and after a super stressful first year, she finally became healthy. We don’t know if it was the antiobiotics, or she started growing out of her ailments, or the food switch to avoid allergens, or the probiotics we added her to her food (she still gets them), or all the love and snuggles we gave her. In reality, it was probably a combination of different things.

About 2.5 years ago we found out that Ruby’s allergies weren’t just limited to foods.

One Sunday night at dusk, Ruby was running around the yard, and then she was running sideways like she was drunk. I told her to come in the house because she was acting like a nut – she ran in, jumped on the couch and peed all over it. Her eyes were unfocused and she looked terrified. She started towards the door, and poo & vomit came out of her, and then she collapsed. We had NO idea what happened.

We picked up her limp body, put her in the car, and raced to the emergency room vet. The 15 minute drive took forever. Sean drove, while I sat in the hatchback with Ruby in my lap. She was barely breathing, with blueish lips, and cold limbs. We called the vet on the way, and they were waiting for us with a stretcher to rush her into the operating room. After 10 minutes of anxious waiting, we learned that Ruby had been stung by a bee (in her mouth) which caused anaphylactic shock. In dogs, anaphylaxis manifests itself by shutting down the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems. It is not pretty.

After we found out what happened and that she would be okay, I started shaking and crying and had a hard time pulling myself together. Ruby had to stay overnight at the vet, but before we left her, we went to see her in the back. She looked at us, snuggled into my hands, and thumped her tail a few times to let us know she’d be okay. Heartbreaker.

Bees are everywhere. We noticed this immediately after we got home. The vet told us that each time she got stung the reaction would be worse. Sean and I were terrified.

I’ll write about what happened next in a few days, but honestly, it is hard to write about. I am superstitious about Ruby. Ruby has days when she is moody and bratty, but even on those days I am overwhelmed with love for her.

I’ll wonder for my entire life if the antibiotics caused all of the allergies. And I’ll wonder if they saved her life when she was a sick pup. And what would I do if given a do-over…

Meat and Antibiotic Use: Reason #10940503403534950 not to eat meat is HERE