Last night, I had to do something that no pet parent wants to do. I had to take Mauja to the emergency vet.
On Wednesday, Mauja was having bouts of panting that seemed slightly abnormal but nothing too concerning. The heat and humidity, combined with Mauja’s above-average anxiety level, often lead to a bit more panting. I got her calmed down and relaxed relatively easily, so I didn’t think much of it.
The next morning, she seemed fine, so I took her and Atka to their standard grooming appointment. She was panting a lot when I picked her up, but that’s nothing out of the norm. Grooms are stressful and exhausting for many dogs, especially her.
As the day progressed, I became increasingly concerned. She’d open mouth pant in situations where I couldn’t find a cause, but I was always able to get her relaxed and breathing normally.
While I knew this wasn’t normal, I wasn’t overly concerned since she was mostly acting like herself and ate her dinner just fine. After dinner, she crawled onto the couch with me, which she usually does when stressed. I decided to monitor for the evening and call the vet in the morning for an appointment.
Later in the evening, she started full-body panting and let out a few painful cries, so at 9:30 pm, I called the emergency vet, who suggested I bring her in immediately.
The vet could see her as soon as we arrived, and I felt every possible emotion. I needed answers, so I did what many of us do in these situations: run to Google (never a bright idea).
Google is a dangerous place when you’re already expecting the worst. Did her lung collapse? Was it heart failure? Maybe a terrible infection?
Mauja was my first Great Pyrenees and the girl who truly taught me to love and learn to understand the breed. She also turns 10 in two months, making me worry even more. I absolutely could not fathom anything happening to my girl.
The vet did the standard exam and found her pain point almost immediately. Mauja would not let the vet turn her head and cried in pain whenever she touched her neck or the top of the spine. Just remembering the noises she made is breaking my heart.
The vet suggested bloodwork and x-rays, and a financial woman came to the room to discuss costs. I’m incredibly thankful we purchased a pet insurance policy for Mauja when she was a puppy. Knowing I had pet insurance to back up this visit allowed me to focus on Mauja rather than worry about the financial obligation I was about to undertake. I didn’t have to choose which tests to prioritize. Making those decisions at midnight in my mental state at the time would have been impossible.
I authorized whatever was necessary to get to a diagnosis.
We decided to give Mauja a bit of anesthesia so they could manipulate her to get the best possible x-rays while causing the least amount of pain. I ensured the vet understood the specific anesthesia needs for Great Pyrenees, and they took her into the back.
I paced the room, repeating, “Whatever she has is treatable. She’s fine. It’s treatable. She’s fine.” I couldn’t imagine anything happening to her with Nick 7,000 miles away.
After what seemed like an eternity, the vet returned to the room to let me know she was stable and waking up from anesthesia. She had a chance to review her bloodwork and x-rays, and out of all the outcomes I had in my mind, we received a pretty good one.
The most plausible cause is Intervertebral Disc Disease, or IVDD.
“IVDD is a disease that affects the disc-shaped cushions of tissue between the bones on the back (vertebrae). These cushions (called intervertebral discs) have a thick, tough covering on the outside, with a softer, gel-like interior. Not only do these cushions keep backbones from rubbing against each other when your pooch moves, but they also protect the spinal cord from damage as the cord travels down the middle of the spine.
As your dog ages, the tough, outer portion of the disc may start to break down. At the same time, the inner portion of the disc may begin to harden. If the exterior breaks down enough, it can cause the interior to bulge out and press against the spinal cord. This can also be referred to as herniation or rupture. The pressure caused by the bulging disc can cause serious damage to the spinal cord. This is commonly called a “slipped disc.””ASPCA
Mauja was sent home with a few medications and is on strict crate rest for a minimum of two weeks.
We had an extremely rough night. Between her pain level and the after-effects of the anesthesia, she really struggled to relax. Thankfully, this afternoon she’s doing a lot better. It seems the medications have fully kicked in, and she’s been able to get some sleep.
The plan is to keep her comfortable and quiet until her recheck in two weeks. Hopefully, we get good news then, and she can work her way back up to her normal daily activity and get back to enjoying her life <3
Stay tuned to learn more about IVDD and our pet insurance recommendation.