Tetanus Treatment for Tahoe

Tahoe is our beautiful, loving, 2-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever. 

We learned Sunday, January 7, 2017, that he has contracted tetanus, also known as “lockjaw.” Tetanus is an extremely rare disease in dogs and is treatable if found in time, but is fatal if left untreated.

The vet’s estimate for treatment is for more than $1,000 per day, with a minimum expected hospital stay of 7 to 10 days. Unfortunately, it appears that successful treatment will take a lot longer than we can actually afford. I can't bear the fact that we may lose our precious Tahoe due to not being able to afford his treatment. My husband and I have pet insurance for Tahoe, but unfortunately his plan has a cap of $965 for the diagnosis of tetanus, less than one day of the required treatment.

We are pleading for any donation that you may be willing to make in order to help us to fund Tahoe's treatment. We love and miss Tahoe terribly and want him back home with us and his brother Tucker. If you are able to donate, we thank you very much for your generosity and prayers. If by some miracle, we receive donations beyond the actual cost of Tahoe's treatment, we will donate that excess to Chesapeake Retriever Relief & Rescue.

Treatment for tetanus is extremely labor intensive and can take a long time to kill the bacteria that causes it; anywhere from 6 to 30 days. Treatment consists of admission to an intensive care unit that can provide around the clock IV fluids, antibiotics, sedatives, and anti-spasmodic drugs in addition to wound debridement and infection control. The ICU care also includes round the clock airway management as one of the main symptoms as tetanus progresses is seizures and respiratory arrest. The treatment that Tahoe needs may also include injection of an antitoxin, which is not currently included in our estimate from the vet. We were told that it must be ordered specially and is very expensive.

If you are interested in Tahoe's story and how this happened, read on.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017, my husband took the dogs to the reservoir near our house to run and swim.

Tahoe loves to play ball while hiking and swimming in the reservoir, even in the winter. Tahoe only has two speeds when it comes to playing, full speed ahead and stop. With that bieng said it is not uncommon for him to break a toenail or get a boo boo from time to time. If you've ever had a Chesapeake Bay Retriever or crazy ball dog you probably understand what I mean. 

On Wednesday, December 27, Tahoe went to daycare and came home that evening limping and holding his right paw up. That is when we noticed that he had a broken toenail and assumed he must have done it the day before at the reservoir.

By Thursday, December 28 Tahoe's toe was swollen and red and my husband took him to the vet to have his paw and toenail looked at. The vet cleaned it up, took an xray to make sure nothing was broken and sent us on our way with some cephalexin (an antibiotic) and Tramadol for the pain.  Life was good and Tahoe was happy. (actual wound below)

On Saturday, December 30, Tahoe's toe was healing well, he felt good and wanted to play.  (see pic below right paw healing nicely)

Now this is where the story gets weird. By Sunday evening, December 31, Tahoe did not feel like eating. We assumed that his stomach was not feeling well from the antibiotic and figured he would eat in the morning. On Sunday evening, we also noticed a large puddle of water next to the water bowl. Hmm okay, I guess someone was drinking too fast and was being sloppy. No big deal, right?

Monday came and went, and Tahoe would only eat boiled chicken and rice. Tahoe is normally a very clean and good eater, but that day there was food scattered everywhere so this was unusual. Its almost like he was having a hard time chewing and drinking. 

Tuesday, January 2, we noticed Tahoes forehead was wrinkled up and his ears were cocked back. At this time I was thinking maybe it could be a weird reaction to the Tramadol.... so we stopped giving him that medication. 

On Wednesday January 3, we noticed the most frightening of all the symptoms, Tahoes eyes had gone crossed. (see pic below) In addition his ears were still cocked back and his forehead was still stuck in a wrinkled position.  His poor beautiful face was now permanantly stuck like this:

When the symptoms did not subside after 2 days with no Tramadol, we rushed him back to his vet. When the vet saw Tahoe on Friday, January 5, the vet thought a medication reaction was possible, but unlikely. The vet instructed us to stop all medications. The vet drew blood for labwork, including a Lyme's disease work up. Also at this time, the vet stated that these were very strange symptoms and decided to put Tahoe on a steroid in case of some inflammation that might be causing the weird muscle spasms in his face. The vet gave us the number for a specialist to call if symptoms did not subside by Monday. 

Sometime Saturday, January 6, I decided to post some pictures and videos I had of Tahoe's symptoms to a Chesapeake Bay Retriever board to see if anyone had any ideas as to the cause. (Pic below was from Saturday)

I immediately received lots of input from medication reactions to rare diseases. It was amazing how the Chesapeake Bay Retriever community came together. Within hours I had all sorts of input from the community. Unfortunately much of the advice didn't seem to fit Tahoe's symptoms. Nonetheless I was very grateful for each and every response to my post from helpful advice to prayers for a speedy recovery. Also something very special happened between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I received private messages from two different veterinarians in other states. Each took the time to private message me; the first on Saturday evening to tell me that he suspected tetanus and the second overnight to tell me he was nearly certain that Tahoe had tetanus and that I should seek emergency care as soon as possible. 
I remember saying "Tetanus OMG", but for the first time I also thought, "that diagnosis fits". I spent the remainder of late Saturday evening researching tetanus in dogs, only to find out how rare it really is and how deadly it can be.

On Sunday,  my husband and I got up early to take Tahoe to a specialist at the emergency vet. Right away the chief of staff diagnosed Tahoe with tetanus. She took the time to educate us on the difficulties in treating this illness. She immediately put together a plan of care and estimate of the cost to treat Tahoe's illness. While the cost estimate was shocking and scary, we did not hesitate to start treatment for our baby boy.

Treatment started right away on Sunday with Tahoe bieng assessed, placed on IV Fluids, IV Dexmedetomidine, IV Valium, IV Metronidazole, getting multiple blood tests, and Chest X-ray. They placed him in a dark and quiet ICU crate and have been watching him around the clock for any changes. 

Monday January 8, the doctors called us to say there had been no changes in Tahoe's condition. He was eating and drinking well and still going out to go to the bathroom. Tahoe was still on all of the same medications from the day before and they would update us with any changes. We were able to go and visit Tahoe for a little bit. He was still attached to all of his IV's but was happy to see us. He was very groggy and quickly fell back to sleep during our visit. So we let him go back to his ICU bed and we went home. 

Tuesday January 9, the vet called to let us know that they thought that Tahoe's ears had started to relax a little and they thought his eyes were more normal. He had accidently pulled out one of his IV's with the Valium running, so they decided to see how he would do off of it. I got to go and visit with him for a while later that morning. He was happy to see me but also very groggy. Poor guy. It broke my heart when I realized he couldn't see me, and had to use his nose to find me, hopefully that was because of all the drugs. 
(see pic below)

I sat on the floor with Tahoe and took his cone off so I could get a better look at his face and give him so love. Tahoe even gave me a few kisses while we were snuggling.

He was very groggy and tired so we just layed on the floor for a while. His paw seemed to be looking better after they opened it back up and recleaned it. (see pic below) I still can't believe that this wound is the reason that my puppy is fighting for his life. 

Tuesday evening the vet called to let us know that Tahoe was back on all of his original medications as he was feeling a little agitated. Poor guy, he is trying so hard to fight this.  This is so disheartening as we thought Tahoe might be getting better, but this is not yet the case.
  • Carol Morton 
    • $50 
    • 43 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 43 mos
  • Olive Royal 
    • $20 
    • 43 mos
  • Dawn Arduini-Watson 
    • $65 
    • 43 mos
  • Kathie Harrington 
    • $50 
    • 44 mos
See all


Brigette Blair Shipley 
Eldersburg, MD
  • #1 fundraising platform

    More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more

  • GoFundMe Guarantee

    In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more

  • Expert advice, 24/7

    Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more