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Ceiridwen : Handschuhe

Published on December 29, 2023.

Story from Ceiridwen : Handschuhe

My 14.5 year old border collie lab cross, Handschuhe (usually called Schuhe, Boof, or Stinky) has been to SASH for two major issues after getting referred by our regular vet.

Schuhe has had reoccurring back issues since she was about 4, when the vet gave her a tentative diagnosis of intervertebral disc disease, but because we were living regionally at the time, we couldn’t get the MRI needed to confirm this locally, so it was never certain – we’ve just used rest and anti-inflammatories as needed, because this was all that we’d do with confirmation anyway.

Last year, she had what initially seemed like one of her regular flare-ups, but then escalated more than usual, so our regular vet referred her to SASH North Ryde for some diagnostic testing. We had a consult, booked in for an MRI to confirm the cause (hopefully just a disc pushing on nerves, but potentially something more nefarious), and went home with pain killers and instructions to come back if she deteriorated. The next morning, when she had refused to eat both dinner and breakfast (which, as a part lab, is VERY concerning), I took her back in, and she was admitted for an emergency MRI and pain management. The MRI confirmed that the problem was a slipped disc and several bulging ones, which were causing nerve and muscular problems. Because of her age, surgery was likely to have a very long recovery process without much real benefit, so we decided to go with rest and pain killers, but on a more intense level than usual (4 weeks of crate time unless directly supervised, and another 4 of no walks, and no climbing on the couch for naps at all. It was a LONG 8 weeks – see photos for crated Schuhe, and first time back on the couch in 10 week because we had to wait for a ramp to arrive Schuhe).

Schuhe spent 4 days at SASH on IV painkillers and hydration (because she is the world’s most overdramatic dog, and was refusing to eat), and every time I spoke to someone, they not only gave me an update on how Schuhe was doing (very sad and sore, but an exemplary patient, and the whole nursing staff were wrapped around her little finger), but also made sure to check how I was doing in a stressful situation (terribly, and I cried during almost every call, but absolutely no one was phased by this).

When I came to pick her up, it was very clear that she had been well cared for, and the Neurology team were genuinely invested in her wellbeing, which continued during her recovery process. My insurance company initially rejected my claim for this stay, as it was for treatment of IVDD, which was a pre-existing condition when pet insurance became readily available when she was about 5 and I signed her up. When I said that the MRI, at least, should be covered, because it was a diagnostic tool to rule out things like tumors, they said I would need to get supporting evidence from the treating vet. Dr Lydia Poad‘s supporting letter was so well-written that they rescinded the decision that IVDD was a pre-existing condition, covered the entire stay, and back paid me for previously rejected claims, which was obviously far more than I had expected when I asked if I could please have a letter explaining the MRI was a diagnostic tool, not treatment for the back issues.

This year, Schuhe had an irritated eye that wasn’t clearing up, so I took her to our regular vet. After a week of antibiotics, we discovered that she had a mass on her third eyelid, that looked like it was probably a haematoma, but could also be cancerous, so the vet surgically removed it and sent it off for biopsy. The biopsy came back as cancerous, and also showed that the edges hadn’t quite been removed, so we were referred to the Ophthalmology team at SASH to have the remainder of the mass removed and an assessment for other treatment. The first appointment I could get was actually while I was out of town on a prac for uni, and Schuhe ended up going in with my mum. The staff were all very accommodating of this, and it was absolutely no problem for them to do the initial assessment based on the written information I’d sent with mum, then call me to ask a couple of questions and discuss options, and she ended up having surgery that day. Our regular vet had warned me that it may be necessary to remove the entire membrane to be sure the entire mass was removed, but Dr Kate Robertson was able to take out the remainder of the mass without doing this, which means Schuhe’s tear production hasn’t been affected, and her eye is still waterproof (very important when your dog believes that the sprinkler is the greatest toy in the world, and anything medium puddle sized or larger is for swimming. Unless it’s a bath. Those are cruel and unusual torture).

The Ophthalmology team were lovely to deal with, both over the phone and in person, and it was obvious, once again, that they are genuinely invested in both Schuhe’s wellbeing. Kate recommended that Schuhe get sunglasses to wear outside during peak sun times, as this type of mass is often caused by sun exposure, so Schuhe now has to suffer the indignity of wearing what’s effectively a purple ski mask any time we go for a walk, or we play in the backyard during the day. I think it’s hilarious. She tolerates it because she likes being outside.

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