Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day Four: The Recovery Process

ANSEL AUGUST 2008 (Not happy behind that fence)
Ansel August 2008
Today marks the fourth day since Ansel died. I have been on a roller coaster of emotion since Sunday, having huge moments of grief and then rallying. Today is the first day I awoke without a huge feeling of loss. Every other morning greeted me with a tear in my eye upon waking. My first thought has been of her each and every morning.

Yesterday I had to take a deep breath of air in when I woke up to contain myself. You see, the mornings were always filled with Ansel duty. I had to take her out to pee, then give Ansel her breakfast so I could take her out to poop approximately an hour after eating (that's what worked best), then I had to give her a cocktail of medication for her eyes, a Prenizone eye drop in her right eye and a drop of Imuran in her left eye. Both of these drops had been administered for 7 years. Ever since her retinas detached when she was 1 1/2.

After the laborious job of morning meds were done, I would give her some healthy supplements, concealed in a bit of wet dog food. She was on a doggy vitamin, Glucosamine and Omega 3 fatty acids. Ansel would then go upstairs, but not before I put her dog booties on so she didn't scratch up the hardwood floors. At 8am I'd take her for walk quickly and then she'd begin her day of lounging while my wife and I went to work.

Mornings were perhaps our most involved time with Ansel and it's no wonder the grief has been the worst in the mornings. There is however, one thing that has kept me from completely losing it and that is the knowledge that I had 8 1/2 years with her. She was, as our vet told us when he heard of Ansel's death, the most cared for dog on the planet. And that she was. She cared for us and we cared for her.

I have found myself with memories coming to light that I thought I'd forgotten. Amazing times that I know I couldn't have shared with any other dog. When I think of these memories I am filled with an incredible amount of pleasure and happiness. I wouldn't trade those memories to get rid of the pain I now feel. In fact, I have learned to acknowledge the pain and grief for what it is and then quickly remind myself that although her life was shortened, it was still a great life. And she didn't have to go through the pain of old age that my parents dogs went through. She didn't have to go blind, or battle with incontinence. She didn't get arthritis, or hip pain like many Akitas do. She went out on the top, her body in very good health, still being able to enjoy all the things she loved. For this, I am very happy.

No amount of reasoning will ever convince me that my dogs death was a good thing, but I can look at the moments we shared and the fact that she didn't suffer and I can take great comfort in that.

The rest, time will heal. For now I am going to continue to think about her each and every morning and be very thankful for the time I did have with her.


  1. i know what its like

  2. Thanks for sharing her beautiful nature with us. I know her life was not in vain as this is the first time I and I'm sure others have heard of HGE. I'm sure you have saved others the pain of losing their precious friend. I wish you all the best. I'm sure she will always be with you and thanks you for loving her as you did.

  3. We lost our Toby, Miniature Schnauzer to HGE on September 12th, 2009. He lived with us for 10 of his long and healthy 12 years. We too have had a hard time with him gone. Toby was our first dog. He was the best.
    Reading your blog brings up alot of grief and guilt not knowing that if we had acted earlier in the day that we may have been able to save him. First signs of illness was bloody vomiting and discomfort. No diarrhea until vet examination. He collapsed on the table.
    D. Lee Brockville, ON, Canada

  4. I am so sorry for your loss... we were lucky enough to get our 3yr old chihuahua to the vet in time. They kept him for over a day for IVF and antibiotics. He's still not feeling well, but I think it's getting better. I had never heard of HGE before but the possibilities are terrifying! It could just as easily been us in your position, but the way his symptoms presented were easier to spot than your dogs'. I will be forever vigilant now, checking all his poops for blood and a reoccurance...
    ~Kelly, MA

  5. Thank you for you story abut Ansel. I lost my seven month old British Lab Sulaco tonight. He died on the way to the emergency vet. I didn't know anything was wrong. No, he hadn't been as full of piss and vinegar as usual but he didn't show any signs of anything else until tonight when I came home and there was blood all over the floor. This is extremely hard for me and even more so for my daughter because she loves animals so much. Thank you for your post saying that you can't beat yourself up because you didn't know. I didn't. But I feel so damned guilty. But, we were with him when he died. He lived long enough for us to tell him that. I just don't know why this had to happen.

  6. Nubby,

    I feel for you. Really. My heart goes out to you.

    But honestly, please don't beat yourself up. I still think about the "what ifs" and they will drive you crazy.

    I'm happy knowing that there are so many people who love their pets as much as I loved mine.

    Best wishes,

  7. I'm truly sorry for your loss...
    A life shared, always leaves a big void behind when they are gone. :(

    I've found your blog through a desperate search for anything to explain my 3yo dog's sudden illness, and although he is now under watch with IV treatment, we could easily lose him tonight.

    If only...
    I had known about HGE;
    I had refused to accept the vet's thumb's up when his blood count & kidney function tests showed up as normal...
    I had found a competent vet sooner;

    If only...

  8. I am so sorry for your loss. Our sweet mutt, Corky, is recovering from what the vet suspects is HGE. On Sunday evening this week, Corky had a mushy poop on her walk (isn't it weird how dog owners discuss their pet's poop consistency-much the same as my husband and I used to discuss our infant/toddler's poop consistency). Anyway, she was fine the rest of the evening. Monday morning, she refused her food. Not uncommon for her, as she has tummy upsets every few weeks. She had a runny poop on her 7:30 am walk, and then began vomiting after we returned home. Again, not uncommon for her. Then the vomiting became every few minutes, followed by watery diarrhea. I sensed something wrong-she was lethargic, and not her usually perky self. The vet said to bring her in, so I loaded her up in the car and drove like a maniac to the vet's. When we were waiting for a room to become free, she started dribbling blood from her back end. Luckily, I had a box of Wipe-Ems with me (a Mom thing), and told the receptionist, who immediately called the back to get a doc out there. The vet's assistant came out, took her to the scale, and she literally exploded with blood and watery diarrhea-horrible. The vet rushed her to the back, where they started IV fluids and antibiotics immediately. I was convinced that we were going to lose her, but after two days of IV fluids, antibiotics and anti-nausea drugs, she is markedly improved. Her bloodwork was normal except for a slightly positive pancreatitis test. I think that Corky survived because of luck, the nearness of her vet to our house, and a Mom's instinct that something was really wrong.
    Again, I am so sorry for your loss, but you did everything in your power to save your sweet Ansel. I'm sure that you gave her a terrific life, and that her suffering, if any, was mercifully short. Thanks for sharing any and all info about HGE.

  9. I'm so sorry about Ansel. What a beautiful animal!
    My 2 yr old, perfectly healthy lab was diagnosed with HGE yesterday. Scary stuff.

  10. Aunt Ginny,

    I'm so sorry to hear that.

    And how is he/she?


  11. So sorry for your loss! My dog is at the vet right now with this, and it is killing me. I have seven dogs. 4 bigger outside dogs and three little dogs. My Felina is eight years old. She is a chihuahua mix. On Sunday morning, I woke up to find two big piles of vomit in my laundry room where my little dogs sleep. I didn't know which one it came from. It was clear with bits of grass in it. They all seemed okay, so I cleaned it up and didn't think anything of it. Later that afternoon my Felina started throwing up clear vomit again. I thought she had just ate something weird, so I just kept and eye on her. She went out to use the bathroom and I was watching her and saw liquid blood come out. Not poop at all it was pure blood. It scared me to death and we called the after hour emergency vet. He asked us her age and shot status and what not. He decided she would probably be fine and to watch her closely. This was the vet on call, not our normal vet. I stayed up with her all night and she continually got worse. I kept making her drink water and she drank it willingly but would immediately throw it up. I live in a very rural area. We are about 75 miles from the vet, so I just kept pushing fluids until morning. We took her to the vet Monday morning and she was horrible! I thought I would never see her again. We left her because we both work, and the vet finally called me yesterday and told me what was wrong and he said for me not to get my hopes up because she is pretty bad, but he is optomistic. Now we are on day two of fluids and antibiotics. I am missing her terribly and I am calling the vet every couple of hours. They said she didn't have vomiting or diarrhea last night and that is a good thing, but she isn't perky at all. I am so worried! Thank you for the information, and I am so sorry for your loss of Ansel!

  12. Laura Shearin MillerAugust 30, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    I found this blog while researching the strange illness my girl, Suzy, had contracted. My vet -and all I've found on the internet- says it is a rare affliction and it is unknown why dogs contract it.

    Suzy, a pit bull, has always had a sensitive stomach - a common trait of her breed - so I didn't worry too much about the diarrhea. It's when she started shaking, vomiting and whimpering that my heart started sinking.

    I stayed up with her all night. We went outside every 10 minutes, despite the raging storms. When she finally stopped having explosive diarrhea and/or vomiting, I passed out with on the couch.

    I woke up just a few hours later to what looked like a scene from a slasher flick. Blood was EVERYWHERE. It was on the walls. It was on the carpet. It saturated our curtains. The smell was one of the foulest I have ever encountered. Blood, not diarrhea, was shooting out of her like a garden hose. Suzy was dying.

    My husband and I wrapped her up in a blanket and sped to the vet. I walked through the door covered in red and completely hysterical. The staff immediately knew what was happening... thank God!

    Without their quick response, Suzy would have died within the hour. My amazing vet got to his office at 6 in the morning to tend to my girl. She spent the next week and a half hooked up to IVs and under constant hospital care.

    HGE is a deadly affliction and NO one seems to be aware of its existence. I certainly was not. Parents of those lost, like your sweet Ansel, and those almost lost MUST speak out so others do not suffer the same mistakes. Immediate treatment is imperative and can prevent so much damage.

    My heart goes out to you, sweetheart. I know years have passed since you lost your baby, but I can only imagine the loss you still feel.

  13. God bless all you who lost a loved one. Our puppy is in the hospital now with HGE. We are praying and hoping for the best. She is one of our family like yours are and tears are running down my face reading your story. Never knew what HGE until tonight.

  14. I also found your blog after looking up HGE online due to my boston terrier's diagnosis with the same thing. Like most, I hadn't ever heard of HGE nor did I initially suspect that my baby's vomiting could potentially have been fatal. Luckily my housemates and I caught his symptoms early and I trusted my instincts to get him seen. He is now recovering at home, after 24 hours of IV fluids and veterinary care. He's still in a bit of pain but thankfully, no vomiting or blood in his stool. I'm truly sorry for your loss, and I have to say that Ansel has to be one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen in my life. I can't imagine what it must have been like to lose her. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.

  15. We found your beautiful story of Ansel while trying to find some explanation of what happened to our dearly loved 8 year old chocolate lab, Clarice. Our story is very similar to yours. She was completely fine and healthy one minute and gone the next. She too had eye trouble and we had had to have her eyes removed just over a year ago due to primary glaucoma.

    We were in the mountains when HGE or whatever it was starting happening and raced to the nearest vet hospital which was 4 hours away. My tears are falling as I write this. Clarice died with her head in my lap just a few miles before we reached the vet hospital. This all happened yesterday. We are devastated. Thank you for posting your story. It is helping me.

  16. I'm so sorry about Ansel. I hope that time has healed some of your wounds. I also hope that you have found another furry friend that will also be cared for just as much as she was.
    My dogs is going through this right not; at least we think that's what it is. He's just barely 2 years old and a Chow/Golden Retriever/Boxer mix. He started having vomiting and diarrhea out of the blue one night. We figured it was a stomach bug, so I just cut off his access to the carpet and went to bed. I woke up to what looked like a poopy, bloody murder scene all over the house. There was bloody diarrhea everywhere, including the walls. I had never heard a sound that night from him. There was also yellow vomit. I still thought the blood was from having such bad diarrhea and waited til about 4:30. It didn't get better so I called the vet. I told her what was going on but that we didn't have the money to bring him in right now. We didn't. Well, she had us give him Pepto Bismol and Nexium for the night and to stop feeding him. So we did. I slept on the couch that night so I could watch him. It continued all night, so I took him in the next afternoon. It had been over 48 hours since the symptoms started at this point. She did her best to keep the costs down. They did blood tests and xrays. The bloodwork showed that his liver enzymes were 6 times the normal limit. The xrays showed what looked like a stomach full of food. But he hadn't eaten and was only vomiting bile, no food. So we still don't know what that was. She said that he was SEVERELY dehydrated, so I had to take him directly to an ER hospital. He was kept on IV fluids overnight there. That night the diarrhea and vomiting stopped, so they gave him some I/D soft food at 6 a.m. I picked him up at 7:30 and took him back to the regular vet. They did an exam and told me to continue the soft Rx food at home. So we did. That was yesterday. I fed it to him as instructed and never left his side. We noticed that night that something about his face didn't look right. It was either swollen a little or just drooping. This morning we were to return to retest his liver enzymes. Right before we left, he had another bloody diarrhea. I thought he was better, but apparently not. We went to the vet and told her what happened and about his face. Of course, we get there and he's acting like nothing is wrong, jumping around and kissing people. She said that he's still healing and to expect a few bloody bowel movements but to call if he had straight blood. She also gave us some antibiotics with anti-inflammatory meds in it. When I got home, I gave him that. Then, about an hour ago, he had straight blood coming out of his butt like a bowel movement. I immediately called the vet. She said that if he had two more, to take him to the ER hospital for more fluids. Other than that, we're not getting many answers. It's more a wait and see approach. He's now acting listless again, and his face is drooping. I'm still not sure what's causing the bleeding, but I'm convinced it's HGE. But I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any suggestions anyone?

  17. Anonymous, I'm so sorry about Clarice. I will say a prayer for your healing.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing your heartbreak so we could learn more about this horrible disease. Our 8 year old yellow lab is at the emergency vet overnight right now getting treatment for this and I was looking for more info when I found your blog. Of course I was wondering if I should have just waited to take her to the vet tomorrow but now I know that waiting could have been fatal.

  19. Sarah in KansasMay 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    Your story has really opened my eyes to this devastaing disease. I am so sorry for your loss and I know that your pain is never lessened by time, but hopefully you have healed your heart a bit. You have really done a great thing by telling your story, and I know it has saved countless lives. Thank you.

  20. Our dog is at the vet right now for this. I saw her throw up outside (not unusual) and then I saw her collapse. I picked her up and her body was limp. I rushed her to the vet and that is when the blood started to come. I hope they can save her!

  21. *huggles*

    my dog taz curently has this i ruashed him to vets last night, its his 16th bday today and i was beside myself when i saw blood in his vomit, vert said id done right thing and hes now house bound till further notice and on a tablet to settle stomach, and liquid 5 mls three times a day to line stomach so he can eat and a water supplement with vitamins.

    I can only extend my hugs and thought as tax my lakeland boarder terrier is 16 today and i know the feelings yuove been through.

  22. Last night my 6 year old mixed breed had vomited what looked like clear liquid with strawberry bits in it. A few minutes later she vomited again but this time a squeaker from a toy came up too. I knew it was blood and rushed her to the emergency vet. She seemed better. The vet felt she was okay- that the toy was the culprit. Upon taking her home she vomited again. I stayed up with her and we laid on the couch- towel underneath her- when she vomited again. I was giving her water in increments so she wouldn't drink too fast. Something felt off thou and so at 4:30am I took her back to the vet. Thankfully I did. A few hours later she began having explosive diarrhea then just pure blood. They hooked her up to an IV-her dehydration was at 60 this am after being on an IV for 8 hrs! The vet has done xrays to ensure there is no obstruction and a fecal test and blood work. It is touch and go....they decided to keep her another night so I went to visit her. Poor thing had IV's, a catheter, and blood was continuously dripping out of her hind end...she could barely keep her eyes open...
    I am beyond thankful I have pet insurance and that the vet is less then a mile away...
    My heart goes out to everyone whose story I read on this site and to the author as well.

  23. Last night my 2.5 year old miniature dachshund began acting listless and had large amounts of saliva coming out of her mouth. She had been outside playing before. I carried her inside and tried to get her to drink some water but she refused it as well as her food. While watching her I noticed a yellow mucus like diarrhea just kind of seeping out, there was no blood in it. I watched her very closely but she didn't seem to be improving much so I shut her in the bathroom away from the other dogs while we went to my parents' house. By the time we got back, no more than a half hour earlier, She had bright red diarrhea. I immediately knew this was no simple upset stomach. We rushed her to the emergency vet around 10:30 pm I was holding her and she was barely moving, she couldn't even lift her head. When we arrived at the emergency clinic her heart rate had slowed to 33, as opposed to the normal 110-120, and her temperature had dropped to 93.1. If we had waited any longer we probably would have lost her within mere hours of the first signs. She was kept on IV fluids and medication all night with warm bedding to raise her body temp. When I picked her up around 7, her temperature and heart rate were back to normal but the diarrhea was almost straight blood now. They left the IV cath in and I took her home while I got ready for work while I waited for our vet to open, I could feel her body temperature dropping by the minute. They got me in to see a doctor almost immediately and he was very knowledgeable on HGE. In the 45 minutes since I had picked her up from the emergency clinic, her temperature had dropped back down to 97. They did blood work to be sure it wasn't anything else and started her on more IV fluids and medicines immediately. I am hoping she pulls through this. Reading your story brought me to tears because I know exactly how it feels. I felt hopeless on the way to the emergency vet, and guilty that I hadn't acted sooner. I was crying uncontrollably, scared to death that they wouldn't be able to help her. Things look good right now, but there is always the chance that even with the treatment she might not pull through. I have no idea how my life could possibly go on without her. People need to be made aware of this disease, even if it is rare. All I can do is hope my baby pulls through. She is my life, I have jokingly told my husband multiple times that if I had to I would choose her over him.

  24. I been up all night with my recovering 5 year old yorkie. He is not out if the woods yet but we are hoping that we have no more throw up or poops.. we are going to the vet agian this afternoon for more meds and fluids..hge is a killer for sure if not treated correctly and fast. My little guy is in a box right beside me covered up and warm. My poor baby :( thankfullly we got care credit to help with the cost of it. I have learned that dog health insurance is needed. Some vets seem like they only care about the money. . . God has his reasons for it all.. its just breaking my heart.

  25. I know this blog is from 2009 but thank you for writing it. It has been one week since I almost lost my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She had diarrhea on Sunday but nothing too horrible, I thought it would pass. I work third shift and as I was going to work Sunday night she threw up, undigested food but no blood or anything worrisome looking. I figured I would take her to the vet in the morning when I got home.

    I got home Monday morning to what looked like a crime scene. Three large pools of blood on the living room carpet and the dinning room floor absolutely covered in bright red blood from one end to the other.

    I grabbed my dog, she was very cold to the touch, lethargic and visibly upset and off to the emergency vet we went. Her body temperature was 95 according to the vet tech, a full ten degrees lower than it should be. She spent two days at the vet, one full day in the incubator to keep her warm. Xrays, an MRI, fluids all to the tune of $1,987.00.

    She is doing great now, a week later, though I am so apprehensive to take her off the bland diet. Normally a very active dog I have kept her inside and only let her out to go potty, I am so scared of her relapsing. The fact that this can come on so quickly is absolutely terrifying. I keep thinking if I had had to work late, or went to the gym after work like I normally do she would have died.

    While at the vet they said three other dogs had come in over the weekend with the same thing HGE. I wish anyone who has to deal with this luck and much love.