Last Thursday I was getting ready for work when Mike told me that Theo wouldn’t eat his breakfast. He wasn’t interested. And his belly was all swollen. My heart hit the floor. Loss of appetite in a dog is always a red flag. And a swollen belly could only mean twisted gut. Theo was going to die if we didn’t get him to a vet right away, I just knew it. Sure, twisted gut usually only happens in large breed dogs. But when I saw my little wiener pacing, panting, crying, his belly swollen so far past his ribs he looked about to burst, I knew it couldn’t be anything else. And then, in the middle of the carpeted hallway, he pooed a pile of soft-serve poo so large it could only have come from a human.* Something was definitely wrong.
I called the vet and was told our doctor was working out of their Encino branch, but she would take him right away if I didn’t mind the drive. I didn’t care. I dropped Mike at the office and drove Theo to Encino. We sailed down the 101, rare for morning rush-hour on a Thursday. Even still, Theo cried all nine miles. I drove one-handed, my other hand rubbing under his ears just where he likes it. He panted and wiggled and cried some more. I can’t remember the last time I was so scared.
They were waiting for us when we walked in. This was an emergency situation. The doc felt his belly all over and quizzed me about his diet. He paced and whimpered and panted and licked his chops and cried some more.
“What’s he been eating? Is he trash-fishing? You leave him out in the yard?”
“Um, no, we don’t have a yard. He eats of lot kleenex, like I don’t even know where he gets it, but every time I turn around there’s shredded kleenex all over the place. And, um, sunflower seeds? Black oil sunflower seeds from the bird feeder, like the shells the birds spit out and sometimes grass and oh my god he always eats shit off the sidewalk. Not actual shit, well sometimes actual shit but usuallywhatever it is is down his throat so fast I don’t get a chance to identify it much less pull it out of his mouth. Is he gonna be okay?”
“I don’t think it’s twisted gut, but it could be pancreatitis. He’s definitely in pain.”
“It’s medical speak medical speak medical speak medical speak.”
“How would he have gotten it?”
“To many table scraps. Or it it could be he got into something that’s making him sick. Did he get into anything in the last few days?”
Kleenex, sidewalk treats, I couldn’t think of anything else. She recommended x-rays to check for a blockage and blood tests to check his pancreas, kidneys, and liver functions. I said yes, anything, please just make him better. She wanted to keep him for the day, give him fluids under the skin and antibiotics because his colon was a mess from all the diarrhea. She would keep a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t get worse. She told me to go home and look around the house to see if I could find anything he could have eaten, so I did. I also googled “canine pancreatitis” which was stupid. I knew better. But I did it anyway and then I cried the whole way back to work because my wiener’s pancreas was digesting all his other organs and it was all my fault for feeding him table scraps.
It was ten a.m. when the doctor told me she’d call with test results in about two hours. From ten to eleven I googled pancreatitis while breathing into a paper bag. From eleven to twelve I checked the clock every two to three minutes while trying not to cry. I waited until 12:03 and then I called her.
“His tests came back normal. But his stomach,” she said, “is so full of food, there isn’t any air, it’s absolutely packed in. He got into something for sure. You should see this x-ray.”
Suddenly it all made sense.
We’d gone out to dinner the night before. We walked the dogs after work, fed them, then left them loose in the apartment because they’d been in their crate all day and seriously, what trouble could they get into in three hours?
After we got home that night we noticed that Theo’s belly seemed kind of bloated. And he needed a third poop walk – a trend I’d noticed the last three nights in a row. Mike said he was just getting fat. I was giving him too many treats and I needed to cut it out. I figured he was probably right.
In the morning when I went home to look around for things the wiener might have eaten, I discovered that someone (Theo) had chewed their way through a thirty pound bag of cat kibble. Turns out they can get into a lot of trouble in three hours.
“There were shredded bits of foil bag all over the place,” I told the vet over the phone.
“That explains the metallic bits in his belly,” she replied.
“But I have four animals! It could have been anyone. What if he’s dying???”
“They’ve probably all been helping themselves, but Theo has no off switch. Most of the time I see this, it’s a dachshund. They will eat until their stomachs burst. And his stomach is packed solid with food. It is definitely the cause of his issues. If he doesn’t pass it all in the next twenty-four hours, we’ll do another x-ray to see if something else is going on, but he’ll probably pass it all.”
Six hundred and fifteen dollars later, Theo is diagnosed with Gluttony. The little fucker ATE HIMSELF TO HOSPITALIZATION.
But I didn’t care. I was so relieved he was going to be ok. When the nurse brought him out to me, I swear his whole face lit up. He was as happy to see me as I was to see him.
The best part about this story is that he’s a dog. He has no idea his dinner buffet was the reason he had to spend eight hours in a metal cage being poked with needles. We got home from the hospital and Theo, feeling great after a nice nap, plenty of fluids, and some really expensive drugs, couldn’t wait to get back into the cabinet. I blocked it with a case of rice milk and watched him check back, every few minutes, to see if there was a way in. Like the rat in the science experiment who keeps pressing the button to get his cocaine high, over and over until he’s dead. It wasn’t just the wiener, however. Over the course of the evening I watched all four animals check to see if the door was open. But only Toby, King of All House Pets, tried to get in. He rubbed his face on that big heavy case of milk, rubbed his face and his shoulders against it over and over all night long, nudging it away from the cabinet millimeters at a time. When I woke up the next morning and stumbled to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, that case of milk had moved three inches. Not enough for a certain black cat to squeeze his big head in for a meal, but almost.
It’s been nine days and I am happy to report that Theo is totally fine. He’s on a strict diet (no more table scraps!) and he is not pleased. We’re still using the case of milk to block the cabinet and Theo still sniffs it out, over and over, in hopes of finding it open. Sometimes he scratches at it with his paw and whimpers, then stares up at me mournfully as if to say, “Please let me in. I’m soooooo hungry! Starving! Feed me!” And the moral of the story is that wieners always want more.
*Props to Mike for cleaning up that mess so that I swear you’d never even know it happened if I hadn’t told you. I love him.