Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue

Medical Advocates for our Pets: Ollie's story

by User Not Found | Dec 14, 2014

I can’t imagine a better way for us to all be better pet owners than to share stories.  Anyone can read about symptoms and causes in a textbook or worse, online, but real life experiences are just so much easier to relate to and learn from.  We have talked before about being a medical advocate for your dog.  Whether you have a dog for two days or 12 years, you have a gut instinct about that dog.  Believe it or not, that is part of a veterinary diagnosis and is just as important as what the vet can tell you.  Your account (known as the clinical piece) and the veterinarian’s knowledge (known as the diagnostic) must come together.  Now you know why I nag you all the time about having a good communicative relationship with your vet.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have a great story for you about just that.

Last Wednesday I got a call from one of our very best fosters, only this was not about her foster dog, it was about her own dog.  When she started to try and describe what was going on with, let’s call him Ollie, she had little explanation except, a slight limp, lots of drooling, and “he’s just not himself”.  Routinely my first question is always, is he eating and drinking normally and is it coming out the other end?” Yes, everything was fine, but clearly it wasn’t.  We went on to talk about what had happened over the last few days, maybe even weeks and changes in his life, like food, medications, flea/tick, heartworm prevention, etc.  Nothing stood out except a once happy bouncy guy had really slowed down over the last couple of weeks and in the last few days, his drooling seemed to increase.  I had her look carefully around his mouth and still nothing.  Together we decided it was not an emergency, but that he definitely needed a good once over by a veterinarian.  She had already planned to take him first thing in the morning.

The next day at the vet office, everything checked out.  Bloodwork, temperature and all other vitals were perfectly normal and although he was still drooling quite a bit, even the veterinarian was unable to see anything that was obviously wrong with this sweet boy.  An upset stomach? Could he have gotten in to something? 

Amidst a bad feeling that although everything was diagnostically normal, he just still wasn’t right, a worried mama continued to look over Ollie a few times a day for the source of his discomfort.  Finally, a flashlight guided mouth exam revealed what was later described to me as “a severely injured decaying tongue. It looked like it was half microwaved half rotten meat and just smelled like death.” HINT: anything that smells, including like death, is a sure sign of infection!!!  At this vet visit the signs were much more obvious where Ollie’s discomfort was coming from.  There are a host of things that can cause mouth lesions, but for Ollie, the top of the list, based on his symptoms and the nature of the lesion, chemical burn and physical trauma were at the top.  Was this missed?  Well, not necessarily.With mouth issues, it is very common for symptoms to appear before you can physically see anything wrong.  Because of the amount of bacteria in a dog’s mouth, or any mouth for that matter, something small or minor can escalate very quickly, as it usually becomes infected. Fine to not fine can change in a matter of hours.  Antibiotics and pain meds were sent home and after a couple of days, the lesion had begun to heal forcing the dead tissue away.  By removing that tissue and getting a little bleeding, we can be sure that healthy tissue is growing and repairing the wound, so in this case a little bleeding is a good thing!  Below are some great photos taken at his appointment that day.  Luckily, the vet was able to remove the dead skin and see significant improvement in healing.  I’d suggest putting your breakfast down if you have a weak stomach.


During this process, you're a ball of stress and worry, but now that we are able to narrow down potential causes, it’s much easier to look back over the past few days or weeks and theorize what might have caused such an odd injury.  In the end, mom concluded that Ollie and his brothers’ affinity for sticks may have injured his tongue.  Ollie and his mom had set records running in a 5K just a few weeks before and perhaps his limp was related to sore muscles and nothing else.  Maybe the symptoms of a tired runner overlapped with whatever happen to Ollie’s tongue, one thing is for sure, we’ll remain in the dark about that.  But what is clear is that mom noticed something was wrong with Ollie and she remained diligent until the cause finally surfaced. 

My point is not to share this with you because there’s a good chance this could happen to your dog, but to demonstrate a really fantastic example of the challenges we face as pet owners.  When you know there is something wrong with your dog, you just know and many times you don’t really have a good reason, it’s just your gut.  Go with it.  It may not work the first time, or even the second or sometimes the third, but that’s what being a medical advocate for your dog means.  If you don’t like an answer, go get another one because sometimes new eyes on situations can shed some light.  Bottom line: You speak for them because they can’t speak for themselves.  

I want to thank our foster for sharing her story and also for these excellent pictures!  And Ollie is well on his road to recovery! Hooray!

Neuse River Golden Retiever Rescue
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