You may think that a dog or cat without any eyes would never be put up for adoption. In some shelters that may be the case. Not at the San Jose Animal Care Center (SJACC).
At SJACC, the veterinarians evaluate each animal that comes in for medical issues. Being blind is not necessarily an indicator of a medical condition that would prevent an animal from being adopted. As long as the animal is otherwise healthy, being able to see is not necessarily going to impact quality of life, especially for animals that slowly lose their vision over time as is the case for many animals with cataracts.
A recent dog who came into the shelter was surrendered by its owner for euthanasia because the dog had been blind for two years and the owner did not believe that was a good quality of life for the dog.
When Chance first came into the San Jose Animal Care Center (SJACC), it was evident that his left hind leg was badly injured, reportedly after he was hit by a car. Chance had suffered a degloving injury, which means that the skin was missing from his leg, leaving the bones in that area exposed. To make things worse, the bones in the affected area of Chance’s leg were not attached and connected like they should be. The injury was gruesome, but Chance was otherwise in good health and spirits.
Veterinarians at SJACC made sure Chance was comfortable by giving him pain medications along with antibiotics to fight infection. The vets bandaged and splinted Chance’s leg and changed it daily while waiting for an owner to come to the shelter and claim him. The wet-to-dry bandages also served to clean out the wound from dirt, debris, and dead tissue, allowing fresh tissue to take over.
One morning at the shelter I saw a dog that was written on the vet board for “drinking excessively, needed second water bowl.”
The vet board is a way for shelter staff and volunteers to communicate to the veterinarians that an animal may need medical attention. Drinking excessively is referred to as polydipsia in the veterinary field and can be associated with a plethora of medical issues such as urinary tract infections, pyometra, kidney disease, Cushing’s, Diabetes and more!
Without knowing anything more, these diseases and their manifestations started flowing through my head as I walked to the kennel where the dog was being housed.
As I walked up to meet Atticus, I smiled.
I was so happy to see that the dog that needed a second water bowl was nothing smaller than a Great Dane. His large stature made his kennel seem small and cramped, which was exaggerated by the comparative small stature of the 5-pound chihuahua next door.
The scruffy, out-of-control hairdo on this 10-pound female pooch was perhaps the first thing you would have noticed. The second thing you would likely have noticed is that she walked strangely. Her left hind leg didn’t do much. It mostly just dangled.
Veterinarians were alerted to her unusual gait and she was examined. Her leg was palpated and manipulated in various ways to evaluate whether there were broken bones, disrupted ligaments, pain, or nerve damage.
It was quickly determined that the issue was with her knee. Small dogs tend to have patellas (kneecaps) that luxate, known as MPL for Medial Patellar Luxation, which means that the patellas move out of their normal place and cause the dog to have an awkward and possibly uncomfortable gait. MPLs are graded on a scale of 1 to 4 with 4 being the most severe.
This dog’s leg was very strange. While the patella was indeed severely luxated – a grade 4 – there was also another component. Her leg felt very flaccid. Dr. Ostermann performed a drawer test on the dog and determined that she had ruptured one of her cruciate ligaments in her knee (analogous to an ACL tear in humans).
With such a severely affected leg, there was a question as to whether the leg would even be worth saving. To answer that question, the veterinarians at the San Jose Animal Care Center (SJACC) contacted specialty practice veterinarians at SAGE Centers and asked for their recommendation.
In June we had a Poodle Mix in our care at the San Jose Animal Care Center that had a peg leg. Essentially the dog’s right hind leg was not able to bend in a normal way so it just stuck out and got in the way and impeded her mobility.
Although there is no way to know this dog’s history, we believed that this dog had fractured the femur on the right hind leg and it was not given swift and proper care, resulting in what is known as quadriceps contracture.
The following is what the Merck Veterinary Manual has to say about the condition:
“Quadriceps Contracture (Quadriceps Tie-Down, Stiff Stifle Disease)
This serious fibrosis and contracture of the quadriceps muscles develops secondary to distal femoral fractures, inadequate surgical repair, and excessive dissection in young dogs. Adhesions develop between the bone, periosteal tissue, and quadriceps muscles, which lead to limb extension, disuse, osteoporosis, degenerative joint disease, and bone and joint deformations. Clinical signs include hyperextension and cranial displacement of the affected limb. Surgery is usually required to resect fibrous tissues and increase motion of the stifle joint. Bone and soft-tissue reconstructions along with postoperative flexion bandages and physical therapy are required to recover limb function. Prognosis is guarded. Prevention of the condition by accurate, biologic stable repairs of bone fractures is preferred.
While there are options available to treat animals with femur fractures so as to minimize or eliminate the risk of quadriceps contracture, it can happen fast (within a day) and be permanent! Fast surgical correction of the fracture paired with rehabilitation is often the key to preventing it from happening. If you are looking for a rehabilitation facility in your area, please visit the Canine Rehab Institute’s page and select Find a Therapist.
Unfortunately, this dog was not so lucky and had been living with this leg for who knows how long.
The only option for this dog was surgery to amputate the burdensome leg.
In the following two photos you can see abnormal positioning of the dog’s right hind leg. This is particularly evident when the leg is manipulated in the second photo but does not bend in a normal way, but rather remains locked.
Take one look at this 3 year old Poodle mix and you may wonder how we ever decided he was a Poodle mix. His coat was so overcome with mats from not being groomed that he moved as if it was burdensome, perhaps even painful. Yet you could see that with the subtle wag of his tail, he wanted so much to be loved.
You might not be able to see it, but this dog had a large, pendulous mass hanging down over his right eye (it might look like an ear to you). His matted coat obscured much of the mass, but it was sizable and clearly in the way.
July 4th and New Years are the days that animal shelters (and many pet owners) dread the most. These holidays are often associated with fireworks which, though beautiful, create a very scary situation for our pets.
Pets tend to flood animal shelters around these holidays, particularly July 4th, because the noise generated from the firework displays is frightening and pets will often run off, sometimes breaking windows and slipping out of collars and leashes to escape.
If there is one thing I can recommend to people who have pets, it is to make sure that your pet is microchipped and the information is up to date. If your pet escapes from its collar, then the microchip is the only thing tying you to your pet. Animal shelters scan animals for microchips upon admission and they will do everything in their power to trace down owners until they reach a dead end. Having your information current means you can be reunited sooner and with less of a hassle.