Cleaning up vomit is a fact of life if you're lucky enough to have a dog in your life. Although all dogs vomit from time to time, it's important to distinguish between simple upset stomachs and mo ...View Article
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On April 8, 2010, I received an email from the supervisor of the Walton County Animal Shelter. They had just received a young terrier pup from a woman and her son. The pup was in need of care that the owner could not provide. A picture of the young dog, which showed the injury, was included with the email.
I happen to be the veterinarian for the county shelter. This pup had injuries beyond the scope of the county’s care. In spite of her injuries, the puppy was full of energy and personality. This was topped off with plenty of tail wags.
The pup’s jaw was broken on both sides. The right side was fractured just behind the lower canine tooth. The fracture of the left side was just in front of the lower large molar tooth. These injuries were devastating and way too severe for the county to provide the treatment and care needed to nurse this dog to an adoptable state; therefore, the fate of this canine was virtually sealed. There are too many great dogs awaiting adoption and we have to consider how to spread the small amount of money around to best serve those deserving dogs and get them good homes. The decision was made to humanely euthanize the young dog. She was put in a cage to await a fate she could not escape.
I went on about my morning duties which consisted of surgery, examining and treating animals in the shelter. As I went about my work, I walked by the room in which the little dog was placed in a cage. The pup was standing there, with her lower broken jaw hanging open, happily waging her tail as if she had just seen her long lost owner. I continued on to the surgery room to finish up for the day, but the sight of the puppy stayed in my head. I have been a practicing veterinarian for twenty-eight years and have seen countless numbers of great dogs. Every now and again, one individual just makes an impression on a person that cannot be forgotten. Seeing the happy pup in that cage was one of those rare times for me.
I arranged for the happy puppy to be brought to my clinic so that I could be in charge of her care and recovery. Surgery was scheduled the day she arrived. With the two fractures of the mandibles, surgical repair of the bones would be difficult, at best. The pup was anesthetized and the repair was started. After more than an hour long surgery, the bones were aligned. She awoke without complications. The next few days would be critical in the healing process; watered down food, no playing and much rest were the pup’s only requirement.
During the next couple of days, the little terrier was as happy as ever. Such a joyful little dog needed a name. I thought and thought of a fitting name. “Jaws” was the first name that came to mind. After a day or two the name just didn’t seem to fit. My wife came up with the name “Chuy”. This name fit the happy pup and she became Chuy from then on.
For the next two weeks, Chuy was doing fine and eating watered down canned dog food. After the two weeks, we noticed Chuy was pawing and rubbing at her jaw. I planned to sedate the still exuberant pup and examine the wires holding the mandibles together. I tranquilized Chuy and inspected both of the fracture sites. Much to my dismay, Chuy had dislodged the wires which held her bones together and her jaw was not healing. Now what could I do? I’m feeling depressed. This great little dog who I decided to help save from certain euthanasia may be facing that possibility again.
Meanwhile, Connie, my office manager had found a super nice family to adopt Chuy. We now had to tell the new adoptive family that a possible disastrous outcome was brewing. I was not ready to give up on this little girl. Having been a veterinarian for twenty-eight years, I know many specialists around the country. I got on the phone with a friend of mine who is a board certified veterinary dentist/oral surgeon. After discussion of Chuy’s case, we designed a new plan to stabilize the fractures to allow for proper healing.
I had all the necessary materials and the products needed to carry out the procedure so the oral surgery was placed on the schedule. Chuy was sedated and placed on the general gas anesthesia machine with all of the monitoring equipment necessary for surgery. After two hours of surgery both fractures were repaired and stabilized. A splint was made in Chuy’s mouth. It consisted of wires, stainless steel orthopedic pins and dental acrylic. Positioning of the splint was very good. Chuy awoke from anesthesia. Six to eight more weeks of recovery were needed. The new owners were notified and after a couple of weeks Chuy was introduced to her new home.
About four weeks into her recovery, Chuy was brought the clinic for an evaluation. Chuy(now Anna Beth) was anesthetized to radiograph the fracture sites to see how the healing process was going. The radiographs were great! Chuy was healing nicely. We adjusted her oral apparatus. The mouth appliance needed more acrylic to keep it secure for the next few weeks. Everything looked good. I hoped the great pup would continue to heal properly. There were still three or four more weeks to go before we would know for sure.
The big day came! Once again the friendly pup was put under anesthesia. Hopefully this will be the last time the pup faces anesthesia. We X-rayed the mandibles again. The radiographs appear normal and Anna Beth was doing fine. Great! A Success!
I think that Anna Beth (AKA Chuy) will live a long and happy life with her new parents. She still likes to come to see her guardian angels at the clinic and will forever be a welcome visitor.