Dog owners credit Akron vet for saving their fur-child

Posted November 23, 2017 at 6:00 am

j Dr Kaitlin with Gabels Charlie.tif

By Julie Ann Madden

What started out as a typical Sunday morning in October for Rick and Sue Gabel, of Akron, and their Shih Tzu dog, Charlie, soon turned into a medical emergency.

On Oct. 22, Rick was enjoying the day off, and Sue was preparing to go to work at the Akron Care Center.

They realized Charlie, which they call their fur-child, just wasn’t acting his usual self.

The eight-year-old Shih Tzu was still eating and drinking so veterinarian Dr. Kaitlyn Oberembt thought Charlie wasn’t too sick.

Off to work Sue went while Rick kept an eye on Charlie. Soon, Rick called Sue to report Charlie was crying in pain.

“Something’s really wrong,” Rick told her and called Dr. Kaitlyn a second time, saying his stomach is getting bigger.

Dr. Kaitlyn immediately realized that Charlie was suffering from a twisted stomach.

Twisting or turning of stomachs is a lot more common in large dogs than small dogs like Charlie who weighs 8 pounds, said Dr. Kaitlyn.

Neither she nor her boss, Dr. Jeff Van’t Hof had ever performed this surgery. However, Rick told her you have two choices: do the surgery or euthanize him because Charlie’s in pain.

“I was saying don’t put him down,” Sue told The Akron Hometowner.

“It’s not that we didn’t want to do the surgery,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “It’s just a very complicated surgery — one that, especially in Charlie’s condition, he really needed to be stabilized.”

Dr. Van’t Hof came in to give an additional opinion and then assisted Dr. Kaitlyn in surgery.

“The procedure is very intense,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “A lot of times these patients are pretty critical — it’s a pretty scary procedure to perform.”

“These (twisted or turned stomach) surgeries come with a lot of challenges — especially afterward,” she added.

At noon that Sunday, she called the Gabels to report Charlie had made it through the surgery.

Dr. Kaitlyn took Charlie home with her to provide round-the-clock post-surgical care.

“The care for these cases is very intense,” she told The Akron Hometowner. “The first two nights were pretty scary.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Kaitlyn could see Charlie was having blood clotting issues and upon the advice of Iowa State University Critical Care Specialists, she called the Gabels and told them Charlie needed a whole blood transfusion.

The first blood transfusion a dog gets can be from any other dog but after that, the blood type must be matched.

Without hesitation, Dr. Kaitlyn decided to use her own dog, a German Shepherd named Gypsy. For this procedure, Dr. Kaitlyn partnered with her mother, Sandra Johnson of the West Sioux Vet Clinic who is an experienced registered veterinary technician. Dr. Kaitlyn works at the Hawarden clinic one day each week.

“The next day the improvement was amazing,” said Sue. “(The veterinary staff) went above and beyond. I’m really impressed.”

“I don’t know what we’d have done if we had lost Charlie,” she said. “They did an amazing job.”

“I want everybody in town to know they do an excellent job,” said Sue.

“A lot of people have pets, and you have to be a pet lover,” she said. “I realize not everybody’s a pet lover and I’m sure some people think I’m absolutely crazy but I know there are people that when their pet dies, it’s tough. I’ve been there, done that.”

“I’m just so proud of (Dr. Kaitlyn) for stepping in when Rick said we have two choices,” said Sue, admitting they were both crying. “She said we’re not giving up on him that easy.”

“Rick said ‘I trust you,’ and I never gave it another thought,” said Sue. “To have her use her own dog as a blood donor was awesome.”

“Charlie’s finally back to himself,” Sue told The Akron Hometowner two weeks after the surgery. “You worry did I do the right thing but (Dr. Kaitlyn) said he was never suffering; he was getting better. (The Akron veterinarians) deserve the recognition. It’s awesome.”

“Sue and Rick are definitely dedicated owners and trusted us fully,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “Their trust and faith in us and willingness to do what they felt was best for Charlie and what he needed every step of the way was great.”

“Charlie’s obviously a fighter,” she said. “He never let us down through it all. He tried hard to eat at first and I’m sure he was nauseous and didn’t feel like eating. He still showed improvements every single day, which is why we kept on with his treatment and the plan we originally established.”

“He has the heart of a fighter,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “That’s why he survived I think.”

“And German Shepherd blood,” Sue adds and laughs.

“Dr. Jeff and I learned a lot,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “We’re always willing to give it a try versus euthanizing the dog so we don’t have any regrets.”

“As far as the aftercare and taking him home, providing the additional care and support, that’s not above and beyond,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “I’d do it for any patient. Here they don’t get 24-hours-a-day monitoring like they would at a specialty hospital or referral practice.”

“Overall, it went as good as it could,” said Dr. Kaitlyn, noting a huge factor was having incredibly dedicated owners.

Another factor was Dr. Jeff.

“Probably the best part about my boss is I can call him and he answers,” said Dr. Kaitlyn. “He has no problem coming in and lending a hand or offering an additional opinion. He has a lot more experience than I do.”

“With his help, it made the procedure a lot smoother,” she said. “It’s nice to know that he’s there and willing to help out even though it was his weekend off. You can definitely count on him and (my step-father) Dr. Dick Johnson at the West Sioux Vet Clinic.”

“Charlie’s was a cool case,” said Dr. Kaitlyn, “and I’m glad it turned out like it did. Not all those critical cases necessarily go as planned, and you are always going to have something that’s unexpected pop up.”

“Nothing ever seems to follow the books like it did in school,” she said, “so it’s challenging but that’s one of the best parts of my career.”

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