Aug 17, 2009
Should you get pet health insurance for your dog? Ask the owners of Deuce, a 2 year old, 80 pound black Labrador Retriever, who lives up a mountain canyon in Colorado.
Deuce arrived at our emergency clinic on July 27th, with a very swollen leg, the result of a rattlesnake bite. Fortunately, rattlesnakes in our part of Colorado do not have very potent venom, and most patients survive. However, in a few cases, the venom can wreak havoc in the bloodstream, leading to unstoppable bleeding, kidney failure, sloughing of skin or other systemic illness. The basic treatment for a rattlesnake bite is IV fluids, an injection of an antihistamine, anti-inflammatory medication, and pain meds. Sometimes antibiotics are added if the bite wound appears infected. Whenever possible, it is ideal to give antivenin, to counteract the negative affects of the snake venom on kidneys and platelets (clotting portion of the blood). Unfortunately, antivenin is very expensive, costing close to $600 per vial. Of course, when you consider that the average human snake bite victim may get 10 vials which cost upwards of $2,000 per vial, the veterinary version seems like a bargain. The average dog gets one to two vials when the owner can afford it, but many can not and most dogs will survive regardless. Deuce got the standard treatment, without antivenin, and recovered over the next 3- 4 days.
On July 30, we got a call saying Deuce was coming back. The assumption was there was some complication related to the snake bite wound. No, said the owners, this time he appears to be coughing. It turns out Deuce had been shot by a neighbor with a shotgun when Deuce escaped from the yard and started chasing the neighbor’s chickens. XRays showed multiple pellets throughout Deuce’s chest and abdomen. (See attached)
The treatment was déjà vu: IV fluids, some pain meds and more antibiotics. When it comes to shotgun pellets, they are usually left alone (ask VP Chaney and some of his hunting buddies), as long as they are not causing a problem with a vital organ. Although some of the pellets in Deuce’s chest were irritating his airway, he stopped coughing and went home the next morning.
No doubt that when Deuce’s owners were checking out for the second time, they may have inspected one of the brochures for Pet Health Insurance that was sitting on our counter. Of course, at that time, the horse was already out of the barn, so to speak.