It's been a long week but let me fill you in on what's going on with Riley. When I came home from church last Sunday Riley was holding up her back left leg and was whimpering. That hip has been acting up for the past 2 weeks but not enough for her to stay home when we head out for our 2 mile walk every night. After welcoming me home I gave her a baby aspirin to help with the pain and she headed back to bed.
While I was cooking pancakes I kept hearing weird noises but every time I checked on Riley, she was just chilling out on her bed. Then when Christian and I sat down to eat, Riley started crying in pain non-stop. Her whole body was shaking (I think she was scared) and her yelps and whimpers were wrenching at my heart. I felt so helpless. We were going to head to my family's land to cut down a Christmas tree after breakfast but, with Riley in so much pain, I decided to take her into the animal hospital. The hour drive seemed to last forever.
Once at the hospital, the vet did an exam and noticed that her hip was very swollen. He gave Riley some morphine and ordered a few x-rays. The bones and joints looked great but the soft tissue of her whole left hip was about twice the size of her other hip. I was beating myself up for not noticing that but have since forgiven myself. She has so much hair that, realistically, unless you know her hip is swollen, you wouldn't notice.
The vet started talking about tumors and masses and amputation and cancer and all of the other scary words that no one ever wants to hear. He said that it didn't look good and she would need a biopsy. The surgical team doesn't work on the weekend so I could either bring her back to the hospital Monday morning or get in touch with our regular vet and proceed with him. Since I LOVE our regular vet, I opted for that route. I spent a good part of the rest of the day breaking down in tears because I was going to lose my dog. I begged God for more time with her but only if she could enjoy those days without pain.
Riley was in a scary drug stupor for the rest of the day. I would talk to her and she would just stare straight ahead with glassy eyes. Around 7:00 that night she started becoming more alert which was good, but then she started whimpering in pain again. The vet gave me some pain meds to take home but she had already had her dose for the evening. As Riley lay on the couch, every breath that she took was a whimper. Every. Breath. I couldn't understand how she could still be in so much pain. Once we went to bed, she slept soundly for a little while then the whimpering and labored breathing started up again around 10PM. I seriously thought she was going to die during the night. That's how terrible she sounded. After an hour of listening to her cry, I started to ask God to take her so she wouldn't have to suffer anymore. I gently pet her and rubbed the bridge of her noise while I waited for the clock to read midnight so I could give her more pain meds. Finally, 12:00 came so we got up, went outside for a bit, then I gave her another pain pill. She went right back to sleep and slept quietly through the night. Me? I wouldn't call what I did sleeping.
Monday morning I called our regular vet as soon as they opened. Dr. L was with patients until late morning. My dogs come to work with me so I spent my morning telling coworkers the bad news and we all shed some more tears. Riley was acting considerably better than the day before. She was still hobbling around but her personality was normal and she ate breakfast. Also, I hadn't heard her yelp in pain since midnight.
Finally around 11:00AM I got to speak to Dr. L. He couldn't see Riley until Tuesday but his words were encouraging. First of all, morphine can make dogs whine even if they aren't in pain. That was such a huge relief to hear! Here I had thought Riley was in horrible pain throughout the night but it was only the drugs talking. It would have been nice for the hospital to tell me that! Second, based on the x-ray and how Riley seemed to be improving, he was NOT leaning toward a tumor but instead some type of trauma. Buster (our other dog) gets a little too aggressive in his playing sometimes so we were keeping our fingers crossed that Riley just got hurt playing. We came up with a plan to drop Riley off at the vet Wednesday morning then Dr. L would keep her most of the day and do whatever tests needed to figure out what was wrong: ultrasound, biopsy, etc.
Wednesday morning came and Riley was doing even better than the day before. I took her into the vet and Dr. L did an exam. We got her to roll over and her whole inside hip was dark red. As horrible as it looked, Dr. L said that's a good sign of trauma. Something they see a lot in dogs that have been hit by cars. Rarely do tumors cause blood to pool like that. Since a biopsy would just cause more inflammation, Dr. L said we're going to give it a week and see how much she improves and if the swelling goes down. He was very excited by what he saw because he thinks it's just muscle related and not cancer. I'm hopeful but still apprehensive. I guess I won't feel relaxed until she's completely better.
In the meantime, Riley has been spending a lot of time on the couch. I put hot pads on her hip to help with the inflammation. She's such a good sport about it. I think now she's mainly suffering from boredom.
In addition to the swollen hip she has edema in her left leg. Think pregnant lady with swollen ankles. Her leg is squishy and spongy to the touch. Too bad they don't make compression socks for dogs.
See how red her inner thigh looks? That's the pooling blood which is causing so much pain. Ouch.
So, we're not totally out of the woods but things are looking up. I'll let you know how it goes at the vet next Wednesday for her check-up. In the meantime, if you have pets, give them lots of extra hugs and kisses today.