My Dog died 20 hours after Surgery
November 18, 2018 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Hi, A couple of weeks ago my 7.8 yo black lab died 20 hours after a benign ( results received and confirmed ) mass was removed with his spleen. The vets were not sure how he died. I’ll expalin timeline below.

2 hours after surgery ( 6pm ) he was picked up by me and driven 40 minutes to an overnight clinic for monitoring ( I don’t know what this entails ) but 2 hours!!!

What treatment should he have got overnight?

In the morning 7am we picked him up and drove him 40 minutes back to the vet clinic for day monitoring. When we arrived he was very hesitant to leave the car and go in. He also had a 1000 yard stare. The vet ( one I hadn’t been dealing with but was working that day ) said his gums were a little pale and heart rate a little elevated but nothing of concern and he would be ok with a bit of food and some antibiotics. My mind was put at ease with this info.

2 hours later he was dead. And I was devastated.

What went wrong for my boy?

Please note that we were manhandling him in and out of our SUV boot during transport. And he was excited to be in the car. Like he always was.
posted by burb122 to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
I don’t think this is anything anyone here can answer. It sounds like you need more information from the clinic as to what happened overnight, how they monitored him, more information from your vet and an autopsy if you really want to know. I’d push for more answers from your vet. “I don’t know” and sending you on your way really isn’t good enough. I’m very sorry for your loss, what a horrible shock.
posted by Jubey at 2:21 PM on November 18, 2018 [11 favorites]

I'm so sorry. The pale gums and elevated heart rate indicate some kind of bleeding. They could have nicked something during the surgery that caused a slow but ultimately fatal bleed.

If you're interested in pursuing legal action against the vet, they are definitely at least somewhat responsible for this.

So sorry again.
posted by Amy93 at 2:23 PM on November 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry, this sucks so much.

There are literally hundreds of things that could have gone wrong, and almost all of them are a crapshoot whether anyone could or should have caught that one or dozen cascading things that went wrong.

It's really hard even with humans who are relatively cogent and articulate, but with animals they can't tell us useful information and they don't know that it's super important this time to not be a normal stoic animal about changes in condition.

That does seem like a lot of transportation for just after surgery, but I also know that this kind of "take them to the e-vet overnight and come back in the morning" procedure is pretty standard. It sounds like all the vets involved felt like things were going as expected, and it's really a coin toss whether another vet might have caught something they didn't.

In all likelihood they're not going to know what happened without a necropsy, did you request one or take him to another vet that had agreed to do one? You will have to pay for it and any labwork, it's not cheap, and even if a third party confirms some kind of mistake you probably signed something absolving liability before the surgery, and unless these are extremely independently-owned practices the vets will not be allowed to tell you much of anything even if they wanted to, the state of corporate veterinary medicine is really really dire these days. There's just not a lot of satisfaction in vet malpractice suits, not unless there was actual criminally malicious behavior.

My vet and I have had to have some conversations lately about a situation with my dog that we both missed and mis-read the symptoms on, in part because neither of us saw the point in doing the kind of invasive diagnostics that would have turned it up because it wouldn't have changed much. She has horses, and she was talking about how even off the clock with them she can only work from best practices, available literature, and the limited amount of things she can really know about her horses at any given time (and this conversation was actually "I am trying a really experimental treatment on my horse for a similar tumor, something I couldn't and wouldn't try on your dog at this point, but I'll let you know").

The truth is that even the best efforts do not unfailingly correlate to best outcomes. We want to think that bad outcomes are absolutely the result of bad practice and it will always be okay if everyone does everything right, but that's not actually true. And it sucks.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:04 PM on November 18, 2018 [23 favorites]

Possible splenectomy complications at intraoperative or postoperative bleeding, and cardiac arrhythmias.

In this retrospective study, spanning 2001-2012, 539 dogs underwent splenectomy for splenic masses. There were 41 deaths in the perioperative (anesthesia, surgery, and recovery) period: "Thrombotic and coagulopathic syndromes and uncontrolled bleeding from metastatic lesions were the most common causes of death... development of ventricular arrhythmias during surgery were significantly associated with outcome."

Post-op monitoring would have included an ECG to check for arrhythmias. Your dog would also have been watched for post-op bleeding, and post-op pancreatitis (which often causes vomiting).

I can't imagine how your transportation technique could've had anything to do with his death.

I am so sorry, for you and for your boy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:04 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Was a necropsy performed? If a ligature loosened post-op he could have bled out, which would have been easily detectable at necropsy. A pathologist would be able to look at other things as well, but unfortunately arrhythmias can be present with no observable lesions. As someone who has provided expert testimony in malpractice cases, I can tell you that without a necropsy you will have no legal grounds for considering the veterinarian negligent. FWIW, the classic clinical presentation of a ruptured hemangiosarcoma (malignant tumor of blood vessels that is common on the spleen) is sudden death. Dogs that have splenic hemangiosarcomas often have tumors on the heart as well which can also rupture or bleed and fill up the sac around the heart with blood that prevents the heart from beating properly.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by SinAesthetic at 5:49 PM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hi all, and thank you for talking to me about him. Unfortunately I had no money left for an autopsy and my first born was due a week after his death. He died on 24.10.2018 a date of I will always dislike now. The worst day mashed with my best has effected Me greatly.

The vets said they stuck a needle into his tummy to check for blood after he had died. That’s all the examination he got unfortunately.

I never got a breakdown/workpack of what service I was getting at the Emergency overnight clinic. How do I know they were actually monitoring him. They did say they had a hectic night that night.
posted by burb122 at 10:06 PM on November 18, 2018

Well it’s been nearly a year since my dog died suddenly. And i am still mourning him heavily. He now sits on a cabinet in the lounge we’re he can see us whenever we are around. Its hard to think it is coming up a year. I sit on his chair that he used to sit on in the lounge every day and do my boots up before I head off to work. I don’t know why I do it, but it helps a little bit.
posted by burb122 at 2:55 AM on September 3

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