I came into 2020 thinking it was time for a change. A positive change. I know 2019 was uncharacteristically rough on a lot of people and I was optimistic that 2020 was the year to put all that rubbish to bed. But alas, we are now very quickly moving our way through March and the crap has just kept flowing.
2019 was a particularly rough year for Betty. In case you’ve missed out on being introduced to her, Betty is our first born, apple of my eye, British bulldog. I’m expecting some shocked gasps from people within the veterinary industry at the notion of a vet owning any kind of bulldog and it won’t surprise me. Honestly, I support their opinions 100% but like all our fur-babies Betty is a rescue, and I 100% support rescuing/adopting over going out and purchasing a new puppy or kitten. I was wanting a dog and fate plumped her into my lap at the exact right time, when she needed me the most.
Betty when we first met
I must admit though that I now have an unhealthy obsession with bulldogs. I see them and I just want to squish them and cuddle them all day long. This is totally Betty’s fault.
As with all our pets, Betty is insured up to £7000 per year – which seeing as I get industry discounts being a vet, you’d think would be enough. Think again. We’ve had Betty almost 6 years and every single year she has maxed out her insurance. This is a common story for many brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds and a perfect example of why a blog devoted solely to them will be coming at some point.
Somehow I’ve managed to digress a bit – surprise surprise! As I was saying, Betty had a rubbish 2019 which involved multiple surgeries for different conditions, a couple of hospital stays of 3-5 days each, and the thing I am sure she’s saddest about, a change of diet on to a strict hypoallergenic food due to her being diagnosed with quite severe inflammatory bowel disease. This means absolutely no treats other than her prescription diet. Like many bulldogs, Betty loves her food and has a very continental palate and is willing to try anything you are willing to offer, so this diet restriction has really curbed the adventurous side of her appetite.
2020 had been going pretty well for her (relatively speaking) until Friday night. I don’t know about you, but I am an extremely light sleeper when it comes to my babies. If they move, make a weird sound, breath different to normal, I am awake instantly while my husband continues to slumber. I’ve actually managed to get a dog attempting to vomit off the bed, into the bathroom in time for them to be sick in the shower, cleaned it all up and got back into bed before he has even heard a thing. How I dream of being able to sleep through such commotions like him. That being said, I now poke him awake so he has to suffer through it just like me. I’m a terrible person I know.
Around 11pm I woke up because Betty was sitting up (she sleeps on the bed with us) – this alone would likely not alarm most owners, but Betty is a bulldog. She normally sleeps like the dead and only wakes up if she absolutely has to, or on occasion she’s done a fart that was so toxic it woke her up and then promptly turned and looked at me like I had done it. She gave a couple of very soft coughs but then settled again and went back to sleep. At 1230am I woke again to her sitting up, her breathing rate was a little higher than is normal for her, and she was taking quite shallow breaths, and again gave a few soft coughs. At this moment I was starting to wonder whether she had picked up kennel cough, but in the back of my mind I was dreading something worse - ‘cos let’s face it, Betty has terrible luck really. As an owner you know your dog better than anyone and I knew that she just wasn’t quite right. News flash – I am an extremely over the top owner. I will take them in to the vet (my work) at the slightest thing. Mainly because 1. I don’t want them to ever be in any degree of pain, mild or otherwise, 2. I know how things can progress if left too long, and 3. Which is probably the real reason, I am just that kind of mum. So off we went to the vet at 1am.
I won’t bore you with the clinical details of tests etc. but ultimately, she’s been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. Now this can be fatal in severe cases but we caught it really early and all tests show it’s quite mild at this stage, but we will be watching her like a hawk during and after her treatment. Within 24 hours she’s back to terrorising us wanting to play while we tell her she’s on strict rest for a week – seriously you can’t imagine it unless you own a bulldog. It’s like a human had a baby with one of those ewok things and their toddler is having a tantrum. She gets this frustrated whiney growl that sounds like Chewbaca and ends it with a god almighty big dog bark. If she’s really on one she’ll do some zoomies around the room and then lunge at you with a body slam for her grand finale.
Betty and her Wookie impersonation
The whole point of telling you about our Friday night adventure (other than to leave you with that ridiculous visual image above) is to stress the importance of listening to your pets, not assuming it’s nothing and it will get better, and asking for professional advice if anything out of the normal is occurring. Our pets can’t lie. They don’t fake things. They don’t do things for no reason - so make sure you listen. Best case scenario you catch the issue early and prognosis is great. Worst case scenario you leave it too long and options are limited.
Sometimes I have clients come in who are a little embarrassed because of the reason they’ve brought their pet in to see me, always starting the conversation a little embarrassed and saying, ‘oh it’s probably nothing but…’. Well you know what? I would much prefer to see you with your pet with something minor that is easily treated because you’ve acted so promptly than with a pet that has simply been left too long and there’s very little I can do to help.
Caring about your pets is not embarrassing. Knowing your pets well enough that you can tell they ‘just aren’t right’ is not embarrassing. Being willing to act early and ask for help or advice is not embarrassing. Every animal deserves someone like you as their parent. I’ve been a vet for 11 years and I take my pets to get checked out at the drop of a hat. I am over the top about my fur-babies and totally unashamed of it.
Until next time, enjoy the journey of becoming a mindful pet owner.
Betty - a lady who enjoys a good nap with a mum who can't help but photograph it