Anesthetized Bernese Mountain Dog

Making a CT scan of my big dog – further diagnosing a limping dog

On Friday the 17th of August 2018 I took my 4-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog Pasha to a specialised clinic for his CT-scan. This blog is a sequel to this one, in which I outlined the leadup to this event. 

Arranging  and preparing for a CT scan

There are only a handful of vet clinics in the Netherlands that are equipped with the scanners required to CT-scan big dogs. Thankfully, the nearest is Pet Hospital Drachten up in the province of Friesland, a 40-minute drive away. I was there in 2012 with my second Berner Bromley (2008-2015), when he got diagnosed with the hernia that eventually became fatal for him via an MRI scan. An appointment for Pasha on Friday the 17th of August 2018 was duly made, though I had to gulp at the expense of these scans. As it turned out, well over 700 euros. Having already spent more than a 1,000 euros on medical costs for all three of my dogs in the leadup, including the rabies shots, I was quite relieved to learn upon my inquiry that it’s possible to pay for this in ten monthly instalments, at the cost of a 10% fee. I personally feel that’s a steep fee but what can you do.

Exchanging Pasha’s medical files and talking to the boys

By my request, our regular vet shared Pasha’s medical files after I sent all his X-rays myself.  The clinic in Drachten responded in agreement with CT-scanning both of Pasha’s elbows and shoulders. Very shortly after I informed them the appointment was made, our regular vet clinic phoned me to suggest requesting a second opinion by a radiologist when the scans are made. I think that’s called “due diligence”, big thumbs up for our vet there. The appointment was a week away, which gave me ample time to prepare my pack of dogs for the ordeal. I usually start talking to them about this upcoming event some five days in advance and explain what will happen to each and every one of them on ‘the big day’. And why. Very important that you explain a Berner the why’s… It gets all rather adorable when the bi-daily “talk” has become a part of the daily routine with the dogs. “Oh, he’s doing the talk again. Better gather round for a lookie & a listen. Maybe he’ll hand out treats when he’s done blabbing again.” 😀 And then they all come sit looking at you, listening to you and cocking their big dogheads trying to understand every word you utter.  🙂 <3 <3 <3

The boys listening to one of my 'talks' in preparation of Pasha's CT-scan.

The boys listening to one of my ‘talks’ in preparation of Pasha’s CT-scan. At this point they figured out it was Pasha who had the most difficult tasks so he was shoved to the front so he could pay really close attention. 😀

A slight change of plans

The day before the appointment the Pet Hospital phoned inquiring if I would be alright with them moving the appointment two hours later, due to an emergency MRI being requested. Though this somewhat compromised my projected schedule for delivering Pasha sober for 8 hours without him missing any meals, I won’t deny an animal the medical attention it needs of course, so I agreed to show up with Pasha at lunchtime the next day. Additionally, I made arrangements with a close friend for him to doggysit Stockard and Aubrey while Pash and I were out.

Travelling with Pasha

The day started very early with a breakfast at 5:00 and a woods walk with all the boys two hours later.  It’s so funny when you work with these big dogs in a pack, they can be quite challenging, loud and at times obstinate even. But as soon as you single them out and work one-on-one with them: little angels, hahaha. Pasha, usually the most troublesome of the lot by far, proved no different. The second we stepped out of the front yard and he fully realised it was just going to be just him and me on this outing, complete focus on me, quick to obey commands and a little glint of excitement and anticipation in the eye. Pasha was determined to be a very good boy for me indeed. The drive itself was uneventful. Not much traffic so far up north this time of year and the scenery on offer is less than inspiring to me. Flat, open and dull for the most part. Pasha performed several “Parrots” though. That’s when he sits down right behind the driver’s seat and lies his head on my shoulder. He does those on the daily drives to the woods as well, it’s a cute little habit of his.

Funnily enough, within the hour he met a real parrot and a white cockatoo in the waiting area, of whom he befriended the latter. The big white bird chattering at the big dog and the big dog carefully approaching the cage for a face-to-face was just another example of how magnificent these dogs are with other animals. Even fidgety doofuses like Pasha strongly display this trait. It must be said, it made the wait for Pasha to be called into the hospital all the more pleasant. Let’s just declare parrots the theme of the day…

Anaesthetizing Pasha

Before we got to sit down for a chat with the big birds, however, there were some further arrangements to be made at the counter upon entering the clinic. It has always been a policy of mine to remain and be with my dogs for as long as they’re conscious when I take them through medical routines. So, in practice, that means I help vet tech staff sedating my dog and that I shall enter recovery rooms or wherever my dog may be before he comes to again. Crucial with anaesthetizing big dogs, or any dogs for that matter, in my opinion, especially with the ones that are dispositioned on the nervous and insecure side like Pasha is. At the reception counter an assistant issued us their Terms & Conditions of Treatment and requested me to sign it. I promptly replied with my demands and after brief counsel with staff at the back a mutual understanding was established and documents were signed. Pasha got an opportunity to show what an exceptionally good boy he can actually be when I took him to the weighing scale. Pash grabbed the opportunity with both paws and after I tapped on the scale once while telling him I would like him to step onto the slightly raised from floor level scales, he did so without hesitation and held still right at the time I requested him to. Good boy, Pash! Pasha weighed in at 56.5 kilograms. If these scales are similarly calibrated to the ones at our regular vet, we managed to slim The Pash™ down by over a kilogram in a timespan of 2.5 weeks. I’m by no means an expert in this field, but that seems healthy and sustainable weight loss to me.  After the weigh-in we sat down with the cockatoo for a while and then we were called in.

Bloody, stinking catheters!

Pasha and I walked through a corridor with sliding doors into the prep room, where he once again stepped onto a raised platform, a surgery table this time, without any trouble. Fitting Pasha with a catheter proved very troublesome however. A total of 4 members of staff tried on three of his legs, while he just held as still as possible in my arms. He’s a true darling… In the end, the senior vet had to come in and he managed to get the little hollow needle and tube into one of Pasha’s veins in one go. To the mock annoyance of the junior staff who had just spent 10+ minutes collectively clobbering the job up and the 100% genuine, pure and increasingly growing annoyance of Pasha’s owner, who also managed to pull a muscle in his back while keeping his 50+ kilo dog as comfortable as possible during the bloodshed on a table not quite raised high enough for a gent of his size.


By the time the narcotics were finally applied and Pasha sank down for the big nap I had been telling him about, an unusual amount of blood was shed, only adding to my already foul mood. And I could tell my dog was getting a little disgruntled as well. Pasha was the best and sweetest boy though, bless his heart. If he would have chosen to protest more than he did I wouldn’t have blamed him. The weird thing is that this is standard procedure at the regular vet in our hometown as well and it’s always bingo in one go, regardless whether a vet or one of the vet techs perform the task. I don’t know nearly enough about this stuff to tell whether this was incompetence, bad choice of materials, both or just sheer bad luck. I know this for sure though: few things get me as hellish as having one of my dogs bleeding on me. “Oh dear! I’m afraid I may have soiled your nice trousers with his blood, sir!” – “I really don’t care about the trousers.” -shoots bolts of lightning from eyeballs-

Pasha taking his big nap

After I gently let Pasha sink down and ease him into a comfortable sideways sleeping position, all the while talking to him and praising him, the all too familiar big Berner snore rang out soon enough. I probably uttered a small sigh of relief, quickly did the eyelid test making 100% sure Pasha was unconscious and then announced that I would leave the room now and repeated my demand that I wanted him back before he woke up again. I’m sure this clinic dealt with more complacent and less demanding clients than me but hey, I don’t care about the trousers, nor about what the staff of a vet clinic somewhere in Friesland might think of me. Yeah? Oh, of course Pasha ended up being shaven on three of his legs as well. It was almost funny that a vet tech actually asked for my permission. I mean, yeah, how else are you going to do this? And it’s not like Pash is some kind of show dog or something. Well, he is actually, but I have issues with dog shows so nevermind. -huge bunny trail averted-

Anesthetized Bernese Mountain Dog

Finally, after several attempts to get the catheter in, my Pasha is fast asleep and snoring away, oblivious of everything.

Background info on this pet clinic and the founding vet behind it

The cockatoo and a cup of ghastly machine coffee in the waiting area managed to calm Pasha’s owner down a bit and the 20 minutes it took to CT-scan Pasha’s elbows, shoulders and a section of his spine flew by thanks to our white feathered new friend. I made some additional video of him or her.  Anyway, very happy indeed to report my policy worked it’s magic once again for lo and behold: aforementioned senior vet pops in to collect me in person. This is the same doctor whom I worked with when Bromley’s MRI had to be made. We’ve been connected on LinkedIn since, he’s 10 years my senior and in my personal experienced-amateur assession, certainly not the worst vet around. He’s the founder of this clinic and let me tell you, growing a business like his in this thinly populated part of the country to the extent that you can afford to put a few cool millions’ worth of scanners in the joint takes some doing! I’d say he’s half a head taller than me and looks very slim and fit. I’m mentioning this because while he guided me to Pasha I noticed he had no difficulties in keeping up with the speedwalking pace I tend to punch out in situations like these. People usually complain when they walk with me so kudos to the old doctor! I might as well add that he was jokingly referred to as “the antique furniture” by his younger staff while they were desperately trying to apply a bloody stinking catheter on my Pasha. -insert a witty remark here-

Reunited with Pasha: waking a big dog from narcotic sleep

We thus reached the holy grail of Scanners & Computers of the Vet Hospital in good time and as agreed on forehand, there was the surgery table with my snoring Pasha on it rolled into the computer room. The table was raised a little above my waist height this time, enabling me to lean over Pash as if hanging at a bar. I grabbed him immediately, placing my right hand in between his front legs in order to stroke his chest and my left right against his shoulders and upper neck for a good head scratch. The doctor sat down behind his PC, turned the monitor my way a bit and opened up the file of Pasha’s CT scan. Before he could start playing it I felt a little movement in my arms telling me Pasha had come back to life. Of course I immediately told him “hi sweetie!” and that I was here and that he’s a good boy and that he can just stay put, rest and take it easy. With a gentle thrashing move of the right front paw he told me: “I’m still a bit sleepy but give me many pets please”. Pasha-thrashings for attention are usually much more violent so I could tell he still had some drugs left in him to sleep off.

In my next blog, I will give as much detail as possible about the diagnosis of Pasha’s condition, how he recovered from the narcotics and the second opinion on his CT-scan.

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