Knockout from a Mean Left Hook


Second in a series

When Amos rolled Jamie, prepped and sleeping, into surgery I was already scrubbed, gowned, and gloved. I remember standing in front of the x-ray view box (pre-digital) studying the films and planning my strategy. Every case is different. A bone plate might have worked well, had that evil equine been a bit more considerate in aiming his kick. We’d play the hand we were dealt.

With Jamie’s blood pressure and heart rhythm stable and her breathing steady, I made my approach. Carefully elevating her gums away from the site of her broken mandible I saw the problem up close and personal. The break was diagonal and jagged. We could work with it.

Amos had the orthopedic drill ready. I handed him the sterile end of the hose to plug into the nitrogen cylinder. Then he scrubbed and gowned. Our nurse Shannon would take over anesthesia monitoring.

While retracting Jamie’s gums, and keeping them moist, Amos provided good exposure. I drilled holes through the bones, between tooth roots, and passed orthopedic wires across the fracture. Tightening them one twist at a time brought the ends slowly together, locking the serrated edges back to their normal position. When it all felt good and tight I stitched the gums.

Bones need rest in order to heal; chewing and horse chasing were off the table for at least 6 weeks. After gently rolling Jamie onto her side Amos clipped the hair on her neck and gave her skin a good surgical scrub. I made a short incision, passed one end of a feeding tube into her esophagus and sutured and then bandaged its other end to her skin. Our patient would live on a canned dog food gruel, syringed into her esophageal feeding tube. Until then this canine gourmet’s taste buds would take a sabbatical.

I then fashioned a comfortable tape muzzle that would make Jamie a local spectacle. She could open her mouth only an inch to lap water. With pain meds already on board she looked good as she exhaled the gas and started blinking.

Next week: A career-ending injury.


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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.