Woman reclines on bed with her dog leaning on her body

My Dog Knew I Was Septic

Last updated: March 2023

We can all agree that our pets are very intuitive. They just seem to "know" when something is wrong and, in their own way, try to help. Early on in my cancer journey, I had the opportunity to see this play out in a very touching and almost scary way with my dog.

3 weeks post-op

Let's set the scene. I was about 3 weeks post-op from my radical cystectomy. Recovery had been difficult, but after having my mom and husband with me 24/7 for almost a month, we felt like I was okay enough for my mom to return to Florida. At the same time, I tried to navigate my continued recovery and navigate my follow-up appointments.

Well, just like a summer storm, as soon as you think it has passed, it revs back up again.

Freezing in the middle of a Georgia summer

On Saturday evening, I went to bed feeling more exhausted than normal but I didn't think much of it. As the night went on, I woke up suddenly freezing. I actually rounded up 2 extra blankets. This was August in Georgia. We average 100-degree days here during that time of year.

I remember my teeth chattering and my body shaking uncontrollably. Then I would cycle to being blazing hot and sweating. This happened on and off, and I knew I must have a fever. But at the time, it was 99, and my oncologist said not to worry unless it got to 101.

Waking up Sunday

When I woke up on Sunday, I felt terrible and couldn't make myself get out of bed, but the fever seemed to have passed. My husband, our dog, Finn, and I spent the day watching movies in bed. I mostly napped on and off.

I noticed at one point my already very snuggly dog was pretty much lying on top of me. My husband actually took a photo where my dog has his head under my chin and his paw on my chest. He refused to leave my side and wouldn't even go outside for a potty break.

By the afternoon, I could tell my fever was returning, and this time it was 100. With all the issues I'd had in recovery and how bad I felt, I called the after-hours emergency line at my cancer center to see what they thought I should do. After the on-call nurse contacted my oncologist, they agreed I should probably head to the ER just to be safe.

My dog knew I was septic

By the time I got to the ER, I had a 102 fever, and they immediately admitted me. We found out within about an hour that I had severe sepsis. It was to the point if I had waited another 24 hours, the situation would have been very dire. I remember my husband sitting next to me in my hospital room, saying, "Finn knew." That had to be the reason he wouldn't leave me.

Now 4 years later, if my dog starts to get extra clingy or watches me intently, I can't help but ask him, "Is something wrong, boy?" Thankfully we haven't had a repeat scenario, but to this day, I'm sure he can smell the difference when I come back from treatment or scans. He always needs to be right by my side when I come back from the cancer center, even after I've taken a good shower.

Even the puppy we recently brought into the home just knows that I need a little extra care after a long day of scans or tests. I'm so thankful to have both of them by my side to provide snuggles and laughter with their antics after a hard day.

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