Snakebite sends Roo to the ICU

It could have been a rattler or it could have been a copperhead. One of the two poked some holes in Roo that have landed her in the ICU of western North Carolina's only 24/7 emergency animal hospital. One minute she was bounding around in the bushes the like the lunatic she is, the next she started favoring her left front paw. I looked it over and couldn't find anything wrong. None of the joints hurt her, the long bones seemed okay. Within minutes, the pain escalated and she didn't want to put a load on it.

We were, thankfully, only about 1500 feet from the parking lot. Roo weighs 70 pounds. I have a hernia. Still, there didn't seem to be anything else to do, so I gathered her up and carried her. I couldn't make it the last 400 feet or so. She hobbled back to the car. I lifted her in. She immediately went into hiding on the floor.

As soon as we got to a cell signal a few minutes later, I looked for an emergency vet clinic. It turned out that the only one in all of the west of North Carolina was less than three miles away. I carried Roo in.

A vet tech named Rachel took her from me and brought her into the ICU. She needed to know if Roo could have pain meds - you better believe she can - and that was that. In Rachel's arms Roo went through the swinging doors.

I asked if I could come and she told me that owners can't go back there. I'm one of these people, like most, who feel that their pet needs them by their side all the time. But, no. The vets are right about this. When I was allowed in half an hour later, after Roo had been triaged, there was a Labrador having a major seizure on one table with two vets and two techs trying to manage him. Within minutes there would be a total of four snakebite dogs. Another little dog had eaten his human's anti-coagulant medication and was hemorrhaging from the eyes. There were many more. The staff at this hospital was under the gun and acting swiftly, cooly and professionally. They had every reason not to want people back in the critical area, and yet, they allowed us back there, one by one, for visits. My hat really came off to the staff at REACH.

The vet, Dr. Ulke, met me in a consultation room. Roo was in terrible pain and had been given a load of fentanyl, one of the heaviest of the opiod painkillers. The doctor believed that she had been bitten by a snake, though he needed to do an x-ray to confirm that the broken skin and bruising he found when he shaved her arm wasn't from a break. He recommended antivenin. I said give her all it takes. They got on it.

The immediate problem was that antivenin isn't ready to administer. It's powdered and needs to be reconstituted. That takes an hour. In the meantime, the other snakebitten dogs started to arrive. Roo, who made it to the vet within minutes of her bite, would have to wait until a couple of the more critically ill dogs received theirs first.

I was taken back to see her. She was in a cage, lying on the stainless steel floor. She looked miserable, but fortunately, she was also flattened by the drugs. The inside of her left arm was shaved, and I couldn't get too close a look at it without moving it around too much. I saw the bruising. She was still dripping blood, which she hadn't been when I inspected her back on the trail.

To be continued. It's 1:30 AM and I just got back from the hospital and can't write another word. While waiting in the ER I posted a few lines to the facebook page. To see what happened in real time, check that. I'll keep you posted when I know more.

Roo is always out there chasing everybody. Those snakes have just as much of a right to be out there as Roo does. I guess this was bound to happen sooner or later.