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.
The summer is when kitten season is in full swing. Because cats are such prolific reproducers, animal shelters tend to become overrun with kittens during the summer months (or, more accurately, most of the year in California animal shelters). With such a high influx of kittens, it is often hard for shelters to keep up with them and the care they require.
Many shelters euthanize kittens under two pounds upon entering the shelter, even if they are healthy. You can imagine what the fate is for kittens that are not healthy. The San Jose Animal Care Center (SJACC) does not follow this practice. Rather, the SJACC has worked hard to save a higher percentage of kittens each and every year and has gradually decreased the weight at which the shelter’s veterinarians feel it is safe to perform surgery (using special protocols for these fragile mini-kitties) and adopt out kittens. As of 2014, the minimum weight kittens must be for surgery to be performed at SJACC is 1.3 pounds.
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.
An adolescent pit bull was noted by the shelter staff to be producing a lot of tears or discharge from one of its eyes. The veterinarians examined the dog closely and found tiny hairs growing out of abnormal areas of the dog’s eyelid and conjunctiva.
Ectopic cilia and distichia are terms used to describe abnormal eyelash or hair growth on the eyelid or conjunctiva of the eye.
This dog had three areas where there was abnormal hair growth around the eye, specifically around the lower eyelid. As you can see in the photo below, there is a hair that is sticking out from pink tissue (conjunctiva) to the right of the eye (around 3 o’clock), there are a few small hairs abnormally placed on the eyelid (around 6 o’clock), and there is an island of hairs arising from the junction of the eyelid and conjunctiva (around 8 o’clock).
Watch the video, read the story, or, better yet, do both! Either way, this kitten’s story is sure to warm your heart!
I am publishing this post on Father’s Day, as it is dedicated to my father, who gave me the strength to fight for what I believe in and the courage to leave my previous career to pursue the dream that is my life as a shelter vet.
Braveheart’s story is one that I’ve posted from start to finish on Facebook. It is an inspiring story of a 1.7-pound kitten that was brought to the San Jose Animal Care Center by a good samaritan who found him with half of his left front leg missing and a giant bulge in his belly. The good samaritan cleaned him up and took him to our shelter, hoping we would see potential in the kitten despite his small size.
Meet Broozer! Broozer and his owner were attacked by another dog. While his owner ended up in the hospital, Broozer ended up at the San Jose Animal Care Center as an emergency.
Despite sustaining a open fracture to the tibia on his left hind leg along with some other, more superficial injuries, Broozer was super sweet to us when he showed up. He allowed us to give him pain medicine and splint his broken leg without any resistance.