It’s been the quietest month of what until now has been a busy year. I suppose Christmas is a factor in that, although I’ve noticed that it seems to come round about this time every year! I think that this year people are really having to watch the pennies.
However the recession hasn’t prevented our generous customers giving us the usual collection of delicious chocolates and biscuits. So, if we are standing around with not enough to do at least we can usefully expand our waistlines!
We’ve still had some interesting cases to deal with: the dog who arrived convulsing, the result, we think, of raiding a bin containing mouldy food; the dog with alarming bruising due to blood clotting problems likely to have been caused by a tick borne parasite picked up in France; the little puppy whose broken tibia needed a metal pin.
We wait to see what the new year will bring. Let us hope it’s a good one!
I got into a rather tight spot this month when called to visit a sick dog. The client lives at the bottom of a steep muddy drive with two hairpin bends. I remembered Mr Woodhall getting stuck there over 20 years ago so I didn’t immediately drive right down but left my trucktor (as my kids have been known to refer to my splendid vehicle) at the top and walked down. However, it became apparent that the dog would need to be euthanased. Having carried this out the owners, who I’m sure will not be insulted if I describe them as not in the first flush of youth, asked me to take the (large) body for cremation.
I therefore had to drive down to the house but (I think you may be running ahead of me here!) couldn’t get back up the hill again as the wheels wouldn’t grip in the mud. The client tried towing me out with his 4 wheel drive vehicle but we couldn’t get past the 2nd hairpin bend. At one point we undid the tow rope so I could descend for another try. I got out of my vehicle but as the other truck approached it skidded and rammed into the back of mine pushing it off down the hill. I thought at first it would go over the edge but it kept to the track, fortunately stopping just as it was about to collide with the clients new car parked at the bottom of the hill!
After several failed attempts I called Kenrick Motors who came to assess the situation and then returned with a winch which they attached to a tree and finally extricated me.
The only saving grace was that this used up the two hours I’d put aside for paperwork – drat! But of course the paperwork is still waiting.
Earlier today I operated on a vomitting dog to remove a conker obstructing his small intestine. Apart from having lost the glossy appearance when they first come out of the shell the conker was completely unblemished. The dog must have swallowed it without chewing at all – pretty uncomfortable you would have thought as it was an inch and a half long! Regular readers of this column will, however, not be surprised by the items dogs eat in order, possibly, to inflict damage upon their owners’ bank balance. As the conker popped out through the incision I’d made the nurse and I pondered as to why we do not have problems with them more often as I think if I was a dog it would be very satisfying to pick up a conker to play with. Edible nuts (walnuts, Brazil nuts,) I have removed from dogs’ bowels before, (at least we would regard them as edible if they weren’t, some of them, still in their shells,) but this was the first time I can recall removing a conker.
A rush of rabbit neuterings this week. We do a lot more of these than we used to:- I think people realise that rabbits are sociable animals and do like the company of others. Hopefully the days of a single rabbit in a hutch in the shed are gone, but rabbits do breed – well, like rabbits! Neutering obviously prevents this and also often reduces aggressive behaviour and prevents common problems with the womb in later life.
Smallest patient of the month was a dwarf hamster which came in with a prolapsed cheek pouch. For those of you who’ve never owned a hamster the cheek pouches are used to store food when there is plenty available so that it can be chewed and swallowed at a later time. When that time comes, if the hamster is in a bit of a hurry and the food a bit dry, as the pouch is emptied then rarely the pouch itself can come out of the cheek and hang there outside the mouth. An anaesthetic was needed to push the pouch back into place and then hold it there with a couple of sutures.
Fleas are causing lots of problems at the moment, both for pets and their owners. The pets tend to get the bites, allergic reactions and self-inflicted sores from chewing and scratching. Their owners, on the other hand, while occasionally getting bitten if fleas have infested the carpets and are jumping up and biting their ankles, are more usually psychologically traumatised by the thought of the little blighters. One woman this month was so upset about the fleas on her cat that she phoned me at 2.30am to tell me about it! She was told politely to phone back in the morning!
If your pet does have fleas treatment of all in contact animals is essential, usually with a good spot-on, not a cheap but ineffective and possibly toxic permethrin based product from a supermarket or pet shop. Just as important is treatment of the house and car with an environmental spray to stop all the hundreds of eggs from developing into adult fleas. Call in or phone for advice if you are worried:- but not at 2.30am!
Another example in our series ‘ Amazing things that dogs eat’. I had to perform an exploratory operation on a young dog the other day because he was vomitting. Lodged in the small intestine was a tiger’s foot – including the lower limb, ankle and paw. ‘What!’ I hear you cry, ‘the dog had taken on and badly mauled a stray tiger roaming the Llangollen area?’ No, I have to say it was simply part of a stuffed toy, possibly Tigger from Winnie The Pooh. Apart from being detached from the body it was still in good condition, if in need of a wash. The dog’s owner declined to have it back for possible surgical reattachment – although fortunately the dog was insured the company declined to pay for further treatment for the unfortunate tiger.
Another interesting phone call last week: I was asked by another vets to give a second opinion on a difficult dermatology case – a cat with recurring ear problems – and they faxed me the details and asked us to contact the owners to make an appointment. When I phoned there was initially no reply and I was about to give up when the phone was answered, followed immediately by a clunking noise as though someone had dropped the handpiece. After this – silence. So I started shouting down the receiver: ‘Hello! Anybody there!’ Then, when I listened carefully I could hear a slightly manic purrr, purrr, purrr noise in reply. The cat had answered the phone! He refused to make an appointment to see me however so I had to put the phone down in the end. Of course when I tried ringing again the line was engaged. When I did get to speak to the owners they confirmed that the cat got excited by the ringing phone and loved to rub against it.
Microchips have been in the news with the suggestion that they be made compulsory. This was in connection with a redrafting of the dangerous dogs act and I think it’s a good idea, though I’m not sure how it makes dogs safer other than to make identification of the owner easier. In most cases of dog attacks (which are very rare) the owner is known and in many cases present or part of the family.
A dramatic illustration this week of the dangers of throwing a stick for your dog to chase. I was called one evening by a panicking owner who had been playing with her dog using a piece of wood about the thickness of a broom handle. The dog had become impaled on the stick as it ran to pick it up and the stick had penetrated under the tongue and down the neck so that the far end could be felt under the skin above the shoulder joint. The dog, a collie, had frantically bitten through the wood where it protruded out of his mouth. I anaesthetised the dog, grabbed the end as it protruded under the tongue with some forceps, and had to pull very hard to dislodge it. To add to the poor dog’s problems the wood wasn’t smooth and sanded but rough with loose bark. I therefore had to incise by the shoulder, insert some plastic tubing, and flush as much debris as I could down the track left behind by the wood into the mouth. I left some drainage tube in situ for a couple of days so that I could keep flushing and I’m hoping that antibiotics will take care of the rest.