Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Wounds That Lie Beneath. Dog Fights and Dire Consequences

There is a certain thrill in being involved in medicine. It is the mystery of the unknown, the deep rooted feeling of being able to improve a life, assist in comforting, and alleviating pain. It takes a little leap of courage every so often to do something that you have only read about, to diagnose and treat something a bit out of your comfort zone. But it allows you to grow, it strengthens your medical or surgical skills and it broadens your resume so that you can in turn assist more patients.

There are tiny pearls of wisdom that experience teaches you. These are some of the things that I hope this blog imparts. It is no different than the budding vet students life. You read, you study, you share, and when that fateful day arises a little bell will go off in your head and you will proclaim, "I remember something about this.." and a pets life will benefit from some pearl picked up by someone sometime ago.

This is Angus, an older Jack Russell Terrier who came to see me one Sunday. He was a quiet, timid, handheld package. He had been in a dog fight and was the apparent loser. I will admit that most of the dog fights I see are JRT's, and in almost all of the cases it is an older Jack who lives with other Jack's. Almost invariably the victim is the source of the instigation and the subsequent fight. The older dog challenging the younger kid but miscalculating their size, skill, agility, strength, and swiftness.

Jack's are highly energetic, possessive, fierce little dogs. They love their parents, bond very closely with them, but have a low threshold for other dogs. And, in most of the cases I see the bruised battered Jack lives with other Jacks whom they squabble with every so often over some possession. And every so often that squabble erupts into a battle of bites. They fight quick  and dirty. A grumble turns into a snap and two seconds later someone is bleeding and limping. I have sewn up more Jacks than any other breed combined.

Such was the case with Angus.

Like a true lifelong fighter, Angus has a graying muzzle, a few scars, scratches, and a look of pain and humility in his eyes. Clearly this isn't his first encounter with a disgruntled roommate, and clearly he needs to rethink his self entitled crown.

When I first assessed Angus my first impression was he was incredibly painful. He also refused to use his back right leg. These are signs of an injury that should be seen immediately.

Angus also had a large swelling to the abdomen at the top of his right leg. Of all of his puncture wounds, lacerations, and battle wounds this was the one I was most concerned about.

Here are some of the things that you should seek immediate attention for if your dog has been in a dog fight;

  1. Trouble breathing. Always an emergency.
  2. Trouble standing, or walking.
  3. Cries or snaps when touched. 
  4. Blue tint to tongue or gums.
  5. Reluctant to lay down, sit down, or move.
  6. Limping.
  7. Seizure. Always an emergency.
  8. Bleeding that will not stop with gentle pressure for 5 minutes.
  9. Large and/or deep wounds.
  10. Injuries to the eye, mouth, throat, chest, or abdomen.

That wound on his right side looked like this on the x-ray. The right side of the film is normal. The ribs run down the right side to the body wall and then to the pelvis. The left side however has a bulge of soft tissue to the left of the side of the pelvis.

That bulge the to left of the pelvis is Angus's intestines. They have escaped the confines of his abdomen from a rent (tear) in the abdominal wall.

If left untreated the intestines can strangulate and this will lead to death of the intestines and death of the rest of you.

Hernias can occur anytime there is a whole in the abdominal wall. We see them most commonly in the area of the belly button, inguinal hernia, or associated with a congenital abnormality. They should always be corrected surgically if any abdominal contents can, or are, slipping out of the abdomen.

The next day Angus had his abdominal hernia closed. He was kept on pain medications and antibiotics from the time I saw him through the first two weeks post-op.

He made a full recovery and will live to see another kerfuffle. The next time, hopefully, it will only be a verbal match.

If you have a pet question, or want to help other pets with your own pet experiences please join me on Pawbly is a community of pet enthusiasts who all work together to improve the lives of pets across the world. Pawbly is free to use and open to anyone who cares about helping pets.

You can also find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or on Google plus.

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