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We decided to take Mr. Grover to the Pacific Ocean this weekend. It was a rare weekend that both my husband and I had off and the only weekend that we thought would be decently warm to go to the WA coast.
It was about an 8 hour trip, but the scenery was gorgeous and Grover is a great car traveler. We arrived after sunset on Friday to an absolutely lovely AirBNB right on the beach at Willapa Bay. The next morning was PERFECT. The sun was shinning, the tide was going out and we had the entire beach for ourselves. Grover has been known to get timid around big waves but with the bay and the tide going out – it couldn’t have been more perfect for him.
That night, I just had a feeling. Something wasn’t quite right. We should have been in the free and clear chemo wise – he had a normal CBC at day 9 and 2 days prior on day 14 his neutrophils were just barely under the normal range and that should have been his nadir, or lowest point. I took his temperature three times … high normal. But normal. He ate dinner and we went to bed.
The following morning Grover didn’t want breakfast which is unlike him. We took his temperature and it was 104F … yikes!!! Luckily, as we were leaving and literally pulling out of the driveway back home I ran back into the house and grabbed his antibiotics from the first time he had chemo and ended up with a dangerously low white cell count. We gave the antibiotics and started the long, long drive back home. We briefly considered trying to find an ER clinic closer but decided to make a run for it and get back to our people.
Upon arriving home Grover was still febrile with a temperature of 104F. We went into the ER. They quickly evaluated him – still febrile, but normal blood pressure and not significantly dehydrated. A few minutes later the student came out and said “His CBC was so low that they are manually rechecking it – hang tight.” I could tell that there were a lot of very sick dogs in the ICU and ER that night – I have no doubt more sick than Grover – and she did a great job keeping us updated to ease this worried owners mind.
The doctor and student came back out and told us that the original CBC was correct. A normal dog should have >5,000 white blood cells and >2,800 neutrophils. Grover had 800 white blood cells and 300 neutrophils – meaning that he didn’t have enough white blood cells to fight whatever was causing his fever and was at risk for sepsis or potentially was septic. They contacted the oncologist who agreed that since he was stable (didn’t have a low blood pressure, not dehydrated), we lived close and would be attentive we needed to get out of the ICU/ER ASAP because he was at risk of picking up a hospital acquired infection that his immune system was in no place to fight. Luckily later that night his fever broke and he has continued to do great.
I felt so guilty Monday. A fun weekend could have killed him. But our very kind oncologist assured us that although that was true, she would have done the same thing if he was her dog and that it’s important for him to have fun too. This will probably push back our 4th dose of chemotherapy because his bone marrow will need more time to make more white blood cells which is disappointing … but right now I am just thankful he is alive and well.
This weekend drove home to me to never take a single day for granted and always have a plan. If we had needed to wait to start the antibiotics until we got home the ending could have been much different. I am so thankful to our veterinary team for taking care of Grover … and me.