Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Bad Patient

Sometimes when I meet someone at a party, they'll ask me, "What do you do when a dog is really bad?" And I usually tell them that I work with wonderfully trained people who can properly restrain most dogs. But if they're just vicious, I tell them, I'm sorry, I can't touch your dog and I don't treat it. Then the people are usually shocked but hey, I'm no Crocodile Hunter! I got bit in the face once already, and that was unprovoked. Most dogs I know don't lie, and if they tell me with body language and snarls they're gonna bite me if I get closer, I believe them.

Today such a beast came into our clinic. I was actually the last one to see him at our clinic - for annual vaccinations - and this was how it was accomplished: the owner pulled the leash of the muzzled growling dog through the crack of a door, and my nurse squeezed the door against the dog and the wall. With the dog thusly restrained (and spewing poop, pee, and saliva everywhere), I jabbed him in the back with my sedative. 20 minutes later he was imitating a bear rug, and I did a quick exam and gave the vaccines.

Today the dog came in because he progressively went from lameness to unable to walk on his hindlimbs in a few hours. He had to be brought in with a sling under his hindend and a muzzle on his front end. Because he was undersocialized as a pup, he lives in fear most of his life - today he was in sheer terror. Apparently he is a nice enough dog for the owners at home, but he was struggling and slinging his head around so much he clocked his owner on the cheekbone and left a gash. Any attempt at restraint made him flail his body, front end trying to snap at anyone, hind legs not supporting him so they were dragging and forming a pivot point behind him. The doctor stood in front of him murmuring, "Stop, just stop. We're trying to help you," but the dog did not believe it. The doctor did not want to sedate him so that she could do a proper neurological exam, but he was too much of a danger to our staff, and in the end she had no choice. She knocked him out.

She talked to the owners. Either he slipped a disk or had a fibrocartilagenous embolus (like a stroke to the back). Either way he needed a lot of medication and nursing care for several weeks (expressing the bladder, turning him, physical therapy - and he's a big dog). There was no way we would be able to hospitalize him, so it would be up to the owner to do it all on her own...

The owner really loved her dog, and at first was determined to give him a chance. But after about an hour, she realized if he got fractious at home, there was no way she could handle him, and then how could she even get him to our clinic?

In the end, she made the difficult decision to euthanize him. Not every dog is a good candidate for treatment, even with a good prognosis, and this guy was guarded at best. We all felt sad for his short angry life, that we couldn't help him, and for his owner. As bad as he was, her grief for him was real.


Aunty Norma said...

What a sad,sad story,Jennifer, and you tell it 'as it was' making it so real.:o( that poor Dog (and Owner) when it comes to a Dog suffering I am gutted...thank goodness we have kind,knowledgable people like youself in this World who take the trouble to care for them...I love you for it,Jenn.xx

paula said...

Oh Jenn that is so upsetting and very sad!!! What a shame for the poor thing, and what a difficult decision for the poor owners and yourselves!! Isn't it such a shame when animals are so frightened due to traumatic experiences in their early life!!

EdamameMommy said...

Hmmm...assuming she wasn't the one who prevented him from having proper socialization as a pup, he was lucky to have her. What a story, especially the door-shoot-with-spewing-bodily-fluids part. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Yes,it takes special people to see bodily fluids spewing all over the place!

My hat off to you and your staff,Jenn!


Emily said...

Oh, I agree, it's so sad. Poor thing, I hope his afterlife is much better.