Gone Fishing

Filed Under: Dogs

The summer was beginning to drag on further. The heat and humidity were relentless. It was the type of day that the air was so humid you could cut it with a knife. No one was moving, or should I say, they moved as little as possible. Most clients and their pets confined their activities around air conditioned areas. Unfortunately, cold air blowing directly on arthritic joints is not what a pet suffering from degenerative disease needs.

Dogs, in particular, appreciate lying on air conditioner vents in the summer months, especially down south, but the damp coolness can exasperate arthritic symptoms. Arthritis is swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints resulting from a multitude of causes which is easily aggravated by changes in the weather or temperature. Poor joint configuration, excessive weight, damp weather and abuse of joints can all contribute to joint damage where two bones come together. This abuse causes irregularities on the delicate cartilage surface between bones that allows them to easily glide over one another.

I was treating a rather large golden retriever named Max. Max was nearly twice his ideal weight. Most of Max’s extra weight was being pushed forward on his two front legs. Normally, a dog will carry approximately 60% of its weight on the rear legs, and Max was doing his best to alter that percentage. When a pet like Max has hip problems, it tends to arch its back, placing its weight forward. Additionally, it tucks its rear legs underneath in order to relieve its rear legs of excessive weight. By moving some of his weight forward, Max was able to remove some of the stress those excess pounds were placing on his rear legs. When hips give them trouble, these same dogs will often have trouble getting up, especially from slick surfaces. The changes seen in muscle mass between the front and rear legs may be quite dramatic. As compared to the muscles in the rear legs, the muscles in the front legs will be quite well developed, since the pet is trying hard not to use or over tax its rear legs.

Mr. Wright, Max’s owner, was rather a portly individual, and Max mirrored him. Mr. Wright and his bad knees could sympathize with old Max’s plight. A weight-loss plan, anti-inflammatories and a supplement of cartilage precursors or nutriceuticals were discussed. A weight-loss plan calls for a de crease in calories and an increase in exercise, which is sometimes hard to do when your joints are already bothering you. Alternatively, swimming is always a great exercise to shed excess pounds. The water keeps you from placing too much weight on your rear legs, while allowing free movement of the joints themselves. I was sure Max wouldn’t mind going for a swim. However, the problem was finding a pool that didn’t mind dog hair. Of course, there was the nearby Tennessee River. Perhaps the two of them could take up a new hobby such as boating or fishing.

Plans were made for radiographs. As a result, food was to be withheld from Max so that he could be safely sedated. Most pets object to the awkward positioning of the hips. They are placed on their back with their legs stretched out and turned inward in order to get good hip radiographs. To begin with, most dogs prefer not to be on their back, let alone have their knees t wisted. Max had downed two dog biscuits from the dog cookie jar in the waiting room, had breakfast this morning and could therefore not be sedated safely at this time.

Unfortunately, high calorie treats would now have to be eliminated from Max’s diet. It is not uncommon for a small dog biscuit to contain 80 or more calories. Owners love to see their pets devour treats out of their hands. Furthermore, pet food manufacturers have chocked the treats full of calories in order to create and enhance this demand. Restricted calorie rewards, the official rice cakes of the dog world, were prescribed. Hopefully, but far from probably, with the restricted calorie rewards, Max wouldn’t feel deprived. However, I would feel deprived if my dessert was replaced by rice cakes. As a result, I couldn’t help feeling Max just might feel the same way.

Suddenly the waiting room was alive with energy as Mrs. Cooper burst into the waiting room with her six week-old cocker spaniel puppy and her preteen daughter, Clair. The puppy was crying sharply and the preteen had a steady stream of tears rolling down her cheek. Upon closer examination, the puppy being carried in Mrs. Cooper’s left hand was quite literally attached to her daughter’s right hand. The active party-colored puppy had managed to find one of Mrs. Cooper’s fishing rods out in the garage. Unfortunately, the rod was not all she found; a rattle trap fishing lure was attached to the end of the rod. A rattle trap has two sets of treble hooks with each comprised of three hooks. The young puppy was hooked by the lip as well as by the metacarpal pad of the foot. The young daughter came to the aid of the puppy and in the process became a casualty of the rattle trap herself and now had a hook firmly embedded in the palm of her hand. Every time the puppy would move, Clair would wince in pain and try to muffle a cry as the hook would move forever deeper in her hand.

I rushed to the waiting room to assess the situation. The young puppy was having difficulty remaining quiet and both the puppy and child appeared extremely uncomfortable with the current situation. Although Clair was trying to be brave, tears were rolling down her cheek.

I quickly rushed to surgery for wire cutters returning to the waiting room with them in just minutes. Steadying myself so as not to become another victim of the dreaded hooks, I clipped them near the point where they attached to the body of the lure. Now, although the fishhook was still embedded in her hand, Clair would not have to endure the pain of deeper penetration as the rambunctious puppy moved. Mrs. Cooper suggested that we remove the hook from Clair’s hand but the medical community frowns on such practice so I respectfully declined. We were, however, able to provide her daughter at least some relief by extricating the tugging puppy from the other end of the fishing hook. Mrs. Cooper and Clair were dispatched to the emergency room while the puppy was brought into surgery. I was even rather surprised that she stopped by her veterinarian instead of proceeding directly to the emergency room.

Upon entering surgery, the puppy was placed in a gas induction chamber and anesthetized with isoflurane. The induction chamber resembles an aquarium with a solid, removable top that has two smal l pipe-like attachments. These pipes were attached to the hoses of the anesthesia machine after which a gas anesthetic was introduced into the chamber until the puppy was fully sedated. An endotracheal tube was inserted down the puppy’s throat and attached directly to the anesthesia machine.

While sedated, pliers were used to extract the hooks from the puppy by pushing the “barbed” end of the hook through the lip and foot. Fish hooks contain a barb that will cause even more damage if one tries to pull them back out directly from the way they entered. Much like the removal of an arrow, less tissue damage occurs when they are pushed forward than when pulled out of the old wound. Within minutes the hooks were removed and a couple of sutures were placed in the entry and exit wounds of both lip and foot. Antibiotics were administered and the puppy was removed from the gas anesthesia; it was awake shortly thereafter.

Clair was not so lucky at the ER; the physician on duty was not a weekend fisherman. The physician administered a local anesthetic and backed the hook out through the entry site, thereby creating an even larger injury. Additionally, she could not escape the dreaded tetanus booster.

Thankfully both Clair and the puppy recovered without incident. Additionally, Mr. Cooper’s next weekend project was to clean out the garage. We have not heard of any unusual catches since that day.

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