Media – Surgery by Dog

golden retriever

Amputations are unfortunate but sometimes necessary. The anatomy is complicated; a good doctor follows established procedure. “Blue” the blue heeler didn’t benefit from any of that until he landed on my operating table. His amputation was performed by the golden retriever next door who, unless I missed my guess, was not a trained surgeon.

Treating the wound, where Blue’s right front leg once lived, was not my only priority. He’d suffered significant fluid loss when this appendage was unceremoniously ripped from his body only 30 minutes before his arrival at my veterinary hospital. As generous volumes of IV fluids restored his blood pressure, the severed arteries began to leak. My training and experience served him well. I was able to quickly identify and ligate the big vessels and then concentrate on the smaller branches. Electrocautery made quick work of stanching the loss.

As our blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and ECG monitors reported Blue’s vitals I felt gratitude for this boy’s otherwise robust health. I fitted his remaining shoulder muscles back together, sutured the deeper tissues, and finally the skin. Our patient remained remarkably stable but he wasn’t out of the woods.

All anesthetic recovery cases deserve careful observation; there were multiple watchful eyes focused on Blue as he began to blink and stir. When I was satisfied that he was really on his way we added pain medication. I then pulled off my surgery gown and headed for a meeting with the nervous family to share the good news. I found out how, during a fracas with the retriever next door, Blue had become an instant amputee.

I learned something else, a valuable lesson that I carry with me to this day. Fear can strike hard when someone you love, whatever the species, suffers an injury. Frantic phone calls may contain exaggerations. But when Blue’s person telephoned that her dog’s leg had been torn off, well, she was not inflating the facts. Opportunities to practice empathy never take a day off.

Next week: Unhealthy neighbor relations led to loss of limb.

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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.