My first job as a licensed veterinarian was at a mixed practice in rural southern Illinois. The closest neighboring practice was 25 miles away, and it was a good 90-minute drive to the nearest referral facility. So, we saw more than our share of interesting cases—a great learning experience for a new grad.
One case that has stuck in my mind for the past couple of decades started with a phone call from a distressed owner. Her pug had been hit by a car, and had an injured leg. Surgery has always been my greatest passion in practice, so I was hoping for the opportunity to suture, pin, or otherwise repair the leg in question. However, when the pug and her owner arrived, I soon realized that the little dog was in big trouble.
The young dog’s color was good, and she was alert. But, her right rear leg was mangled. There was almost no skin remaining medially, from foot to mid-thigh. The hock and stifle joints were completely exposed, and parts of some bones had been ground down by the pavement. Amazingly, no bones appeared to be fractured, and radiographs showed no evidence of other significant injuries. Unfortunately, there was just nothing left to suture, and the exposed joints, gravel and all, screamed “infection”.
I recommended amputation as the best option for the little pug, due to the severity of the injuries. However, the owner couldn’t face the thought of her buddy without a limb. So, with much trepidation, we cleaned, flushed, debrided, and bandaged the leg. The owner didn’t have much money, so wanted to do as much as possible herself. Without hope for success, we loaded them up with antibiotics, granulex, and bandage materials, and set up weekly rechecks.
And guess what—the darn dog’s leg actually healed! Yes, it was always a little stiff, but weeks of diligent management by the owner allowed the little pug to live the rest of her life with four legs instead of three. I will never again underestimate the amazing ability of the body to heal, or the efforts an owner will put forth for her furry companion.