Bad Guts, Lucky to be Alive

woman grey poodle

Early in my career my veterinary clinic had a feed store as a next-door neighbor. Being a backyard poultry farmer, I visited often for chicks (baby chickens, that is) and lay pellets. I lived the life of North valley chic. The only thing missing was the chic.

This was the pre-emergency clinic era; veterinarians handled calls at all hours, day or night. If you had an associate doctor you could rotate nights and weekends. At my place, I was it.

It was a weeknight around 10:30; I was just snuggling into bed after a long day when my pager beeped on the cramped bedside table right next to my head. (Remember pagers?) An 11 year old miniature poodle had survived an argument with a German shepherd. The female voice on the phone was distraught, jabbering. She told me that her little dog, “John”, had intestines hanging outside his abdomen. Desperately hoping she was mistaken I replied, “I’ll meet you in 10 minutes.”

My client, an elderly lady, arrived just before I did. I hustled ahead of her to unlock the front door and switch on the lights. My first look at John, cradled in her arms, revealed that his person had not exaggerated.

Heat dissipates fast from exposed intestines. A quick exam revealed that John was already shocky, his body temperature trending down. Having already called my excellent veterinary nurse Amos, I wrapped that pupster in our hot water circulating blanket, applied a torniquet to a front leg to raise a vein, and started IV fluids and rapid acting corticosteroids. As soon as Amos busted through the door he began clipping, scrubbing, and gently bathing our patient’s intestines. With the little guy’s vital signs improving I led his nervous wreck owner to a seat in reception for a Cliff’s Notes version of our plan.

There could be no guarantee of success but because she had acted fast her dog had a decent chance of survival. I sent her home to wait for my post-operative phone call. With anesthesia underway in Amos’s capable hands I scrubbed, gowned, gloved, and headed for surgery.

Next week: The geek next door.


For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom ( Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.