Pups, pain and pills

If I had to give last week a label, it’d be Medical Mishegas Week.

It started simply enough. I noticed one of my dogs had a thickening on her tail, under the fur. That was OK, till she started licking it and then broke the skin, making me take her to the vet.

What was it? According to Good Dr. Mensching it was, well, a thickening on her tail, nothing else. As for the broken skin, she suggested a bottle of Omega 3 capsules. And since Omega 3 is supposed to be good for what ails you (and your dog, natch) I bought a bottle of the stuff.

So much for the dog; now onto the Dope.

Two years ago I had a hip replacement. Suffice it to say it was not –  unlike my nose job and tummy tuck – elective surgery. If I hadn’t had the operation I would’ve had to quit all sorts of my favorite activities, like hiking, biking, walking, sleeping, and thinking clearly without being in constant pain.

The operation, performed by Dr. Dan Bullock, was a smashing success. In fact, he did such a great job, that had my appendix not been removed decades earlier, he might’ve taken that out as an encore.

Anyhow, I recovered in no time and was struttin’ my stuff pain-free … till last spring. Then, for no apparent reason, my leg hurt with every step. And it was a weird pain. Sometimes it was barely noticeable; sometimes it hurt only a little, and sometimes it hurt so much my leg buckled with every foot strike. Plus, the pain traveled all up and down my leg. Six months of waiting for it to magically disappear was enough, so I made an appointment with Dr. B.

Fun with femurs

After signing in and getting some X-rays, I chilled in his examining room,

Now a vital note about Dr. Bullock. Everyone who’s been his patient says the same three things about him. One, he’s a first-rate surgeon. Two, he is scrupulous about follow-up care. And three, he has no sense of humor.

The first two are indeed true, but if you think he doesn’t have a sense of humor you don’t know him at all. As a matter of fact, the man is so funny I’ve dubbed him The Robin Williams of the Sawbones Set.

People are fooled by his focused, business-only manner in the office, but that’s just his game face. When he lets his hair down, stand by, baby cakes!

Take my last appointment … please.

After we exchanged greetings, he jumped right in.

“So a skeleton walks into a bar,” he says. “‘What’ll ya have?’ says the bartender. ‘Oh,’ says the skeleton, ‘gimme a Molson and a mop.'”

And that’s followed by another … and another … and another.

Finally, I cut in, wanting to know his diagnosis.

“So what about my hip?” I say.

“Hip, hip, hip…” he says, frowning, as if trying to recall something.

Then his face lights up and he says, “You heard about the hipster who drowned because the lifeguard thought he was too far out?”

I feign a chuckle and then give him my best teacher “Cute-But-Now-Let’s-Get-The-Answer Look”

So he tells me.

I’ll spare you the details, mostly because I can’t remember them. But the synopsis is while a titanium hip is far better than an arthritic hip, it’s not as good as a healthy one. And because the metal embedded in my femur is less flexible than the bone surrounding it, it somehow hurts me when I walk.

But Dr. B. said it usually goes away, and it’s not injurious anyway, so to me it wasn’t but a thang. Next he told me Tylenol’s a good pain reliever and if my leg starts to hurt on a hike, I should take one and see how well it works.

Then the appointment’s over.

“Adios,” I say on my way out.

“Hasta lumbago,” he calls back, ever the card.

I’ve often heard of surgeons killing patients on the operating room table, but he’s the only one who can do it in the examining room.

Goin’ nuts from mutts

I’m not a big fan of pain pills and know nothing about Tylenol, other than it can be fatal to dogs. But I bought a bottle, took a pill after a hike and it helped. Then I put the bottle on the shelf and quit thinking about it.

Or at least I quit thinking about it till late Thursday night, when I came home to find a shredded medicine bottle on my floor and my hound Jesse with a look of being busted en flagrante delicto plastered over his mug.

I looked all over the floor and under the furniture for any pills. There were none. The goof had eaten every one of them – all 60.

My blood pressure spiked, my heart hammered, I broke out in a cold sweat. I didn’t know what the lethal dose of Tylenol was, but I was sure he’d just consumed one.

I sprang into action and called High Peaks Animal Hospital’s emergency number.

I got voice mail, left what I’m sure was an hysterical message, and then did the only thing I could – I waited. Luckily, only a few minutes later Dr. Granell called back.

I rushed through all the details as best as I could.

“How long ago did he eat them?” she asked.

“No idea,” I said. “I was gone about three hours.”

“Well, there’s a four-hour window before serious damage, so you can make him throw up.”

I tore into the bathroom. There was no hydrogen peroxide, which I told her.

“OK,” she said, the very picture of calmness. “How many milligrams in each pill?’

“No idea,” I said, feeling like both a failed parent and the village idiot.

“Go check on the bottle,” she said.

“Oh yeah, the bottle,” I mumbled.

I grabbed the bottle — or more exactly, what was left of it — and looked at it.

There on the bottom was written:

“Dose for dogs under 20 pounds — one pill every other day. Dogs over 20 pounds — one pill per day.”

The hell!, I thought. Tylenol dosage for dogs? But it’s poison to them, how can they have this on their bottle?

And then it hit me: It wasn’t the Tylenol bottle — it was the Omega 3 bottle! Jesse had scarfed a whole bottle of Omega 3, but not Tylenol.

I didn’t know whether to burst into hysterical laughter or sobbing.

A voice on the other end brought be back into my senses.

“Did you find how many milligrams?” said Dr. Granell.

“I found something better,” I said. “I found it’s not Tylenol at all. He ate a bottle of Omega three.”

If she said anything then I didn’t hear it, what with the Whoosh of my world-class exhale.

Another question immediately presented itself.

“Can Omega three be toxic?” I asked.

“There’s no toxicity for humans and I don’t think there’s any for dogs either,” she said.”

“Are there any side effects?” I asked.

“Diarrhea is about it. Just to be sure, you can check one of the pet poison hotlines.”

I told her I would, then thanked her profusely, apologized for calling so late, and said goodbye.

After that, I looked at a bunch of reputable online sources. Dr. Granell was right: They all said the worst that could happen was diarrhea.

It seems darn near everything in life is relative. To people who live in the tropics, 40 degrees is freezing; to Adirondackers it’s refreshing. To little kids, a 30-year-old is ancient; to me, a 30-year-old is just a kid. To a dieter, a hot fudge sundae is disgustingly excessive; to a glutton, it’s a light snack.

And relativity became truly apparent to me last week, when I found myself utterly delighted by the prospect of my dog having an all-night, world-class case of the trots.