This is how it happened...
We'd decided on an early tea and I was sitting with my laptop balanced on my knee on the sofa as Damien cooked up a breakfast. I lifted my hand to close the lid and Caesar, who was half on half of my leg flinched and winced. I stopped in horror. "You don't think I'm going to hit you?" I looked at him perplexed. Caesar's history has always been a giant question mark and I've always wondered if any bad memories carry with him. But he's been here two years now and I'd hope he knows that I wouldn't allow anything to happen to him. I went to stroke him a moment later and he flinched again. I called Damien.
"I don't know if something's happened to him but I think he's afraid I'll hit him..." I told him. Damien shrugged when I showed him and then suddenly his expression changed. Aghast he reached for Caesar's face. "His cheek is all swollen he said." I looked and he was right. Because I was sitting on his left side, I was unable to see that his left lip and cheek were swollen as if he's been punched by Mike Tyson. Panic set in as somewhere in my mind I remembered training about anaphylactic shock in children. One of the things we were told to look for and report as a matter of urgency was swollen lips.
Swelling to the left side of Caesar's face came up suddenly.
Caesar has a habit of waiting until just after closing time at the vets on a weekend before deciding to come down with something potentially life threatening. The first, and worst thing, I did was googled it. One good thing about googling is that there's always someone worse. And in this case, there were quite a few dogs who had seen much worse. Some had swollen eyes and weeping scabs. Others looked more like they'd been in a car accident than 'stung by a bee' which seemed to be the most common cause of the swelling.
I had two pieces of advice I was happy with. A good friend and dog trainer, Chris, had told me to pop a cold compress on his face and perhaps try some Piriton. I wandered over the the supermarket having pressed a cool towel to Caesar's face - he seemed thankful for the relief. I had two names; "Benadryl" and "Piriton". I couldn't find either! Then, suddenly, I set my eyes on "one a day" by Benadryl. I snatched them up and took them home. However, when I got them back, I realised that they contain a drug called centirizine. I googled it and got no results for whether it was safe for dogs or not - people on forums seemed to be debating it and there were many references to a 'poisoning in dogs' article which I was unable to find. I decided to leave it. Another trip to the supermarket would reveal that there was nothing safe to feed dogs.
*Very very useful note: I cleared this up with the vet on the phone and she told me that centirizine is not safe to give dogs. So for anyone wondering there's the easy answer that I could have done with last night!
Now it was decision time. "In case of a GENUINE emergency..." the vets answer phone played. As a pet owner, it's hard to make a good decision when it comes to this. I've heard many people slandered for not taking their dog to the vet fast enough yet, at the same time, vets aren't keen on you wasting their time out of hours with non-emergency problems. I looked at Caesar's face again. It was really swollen.
Poorly doggy with a swollen face.
This is when it struck me; my insurance company provide a free 'Vetfone' service. So I decided to ring this. "I'd like you to ring out of hours..." said the vet on the end of the line. "Your vet may not necessarily want to see you but I think it's best that they make that judgement..." At least someone had now told me loudly and clearly what exactly I needed to do. I called.
At first I felt panicky and spoke quite fast. "I've had another bee sting today..." the vet told me calmly. "That's what it sounds like...." Despite my calling out of hours, she was very understanding. "You sound worried." She said, "do you want to go over the the surgery and I'll meet you there? Say 10 oclock?" She thought that this could be an emergency too.
"So it's an emergency then?" I couldn't help but blurt out. Half mortified and half relieved not to have wasted her time.
"Personally.." she paused. "If it's been like this for a while...I'd be tempted to leave it until the morning. Keep an eye on him and, if anything changes, call back straight away. I think it's unlikely to change now."
Poorly sleepy head.
So that's what I did. I woke up every hour all night to look at him, prod him, call his name and wonder whether he was asleep or unconscious, snoring or struggling to breathe. I lay awake wondering what would happen if I went in the morning and it was a tumour and nor a bee sting? What if he needed and operation?
With his swollen face, Caesar could not wear his head collar. This made me nervous. He's hard to control on a lead and rears up at the dogs that he sees. But I knew there was no choice.
I love Caesar dearly and it's hard to explain to people who see the standing on his hind-legs barking Caesar that actually he's a massive wimp and would not hurt anyone. It's hard to believe that myself sometimes, despite seeing evidence of it all of the time. I left Caesar outside with Damien and checked us in. Another two dogless ladies sat beside me and we giggled about why we don't bring our dogs into the waiting room. "Just wait..." I told them. Another lady sat by the door with a shaking, barking ball of fluff and made comments about another persons doberman. "He's harmless!" the man said as the huge dog lolloped in but she just rolled her eyes. I dreaded bringing Caesar past her and crossed my fingers, hoping that she'd gone in by the time it was our turn, but we had no such luck. "Caesar..." called a voice and I opened the door to allow the whimpering, squealing mongrel in. The woman grabbed her dog and swore. "That looks like a nasty dog," she said. Less than quietly. She was still passing comments when we came back out with 2 bags of medication and a better understanding of how much pain our pet was in.
**Impromptu rant: I do feel that it was extremely unfair of said dog owner to pass comments about other peoples pets and I was upset that this was going on in a vet clinic waiting room. For her sake, I'm quite glad that what Caesar had didn't turn out to be extremely serious or I might have gone and given her a piece of my mind. It's a very good job that no one was bringing a larger dog in with a serious medical condition or that had reached the end of it's life. I can understand that some people are not keen on larger and stronger breeds and I can see why but it is completely unnecessary to say things about people's dogs in a vet where they might be really ill! ...I'm finished now.
So what was actually wrong with Caesar? He has an abscess. The vet is hopeful that it might go away with antibiotics (something I was not aware could happen). However, should the medication fail to work, he will need to be operated on. So all of our fingers, toes and paws are crossed hoping that he will recover. The vet is unsure what has caused it as it is on the inside of his cheek but it looks as though it has been pierced by something and become infected. The fact that it had come up so quickly suggests that it was pierced rather than just developing over time. He also has a strong dosage pain killer to help him get back on his feet.