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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Drop Everything!

Being a general practitioner is very different than being a specialist or emergency vet.  Anything can happen at any time, but for the most part surprises are few and far between.  Sure, we get unexpected cases and walk-ins, but it's not common to get a "drop everything" moment.  Well, one of those happened today.

I work next door to a large pet store (yes, a great place for a veterinary practice).  Late in the afternoon I was working through my last few cases and looking forward to being done for the day.  Nothing out of the ordinary was on the schedule and I was working on my second of three ear infections for the day.  All of a sudden my receptionist comes rushing into the back behind a man carrying a Siberian husky puppy.  She blurted out that the dog had been attacked by a pit bull in the store, and I could tell that the owner was obviously panicked.  In a heartbeat I had to completely switch mental tracks and try to figure out how bad the wounds were.

At a first glance I could see a little blood on the dog's mouth, but not much else since she was wrapped up in her owner's arms.  Knowing it was a large, powerful dog that attacked, I expected the worst.  I had one of my techs take over holding the dog from the owner, who was breathing so hard he looked like he might have a heart attack himself.  We quickly talked as I did my exam and he explained that the two dogs had been sniffing each other when the pit suddenly lunged and grabbed the puppy.  He and the pit's owner began yelling at and hitting the attacker to get him dislodged and the store manager grabbed the dog's hind legs to pull it away.  Then they rushed the puppy right over to us.

As I looked the puppy over I noticed an inch-long gash near the corner of the mouth that wasn't really bleeding, but no other wounds.  The pup was bright and alert and didn't seem painful.  By the time I was finished I had determined that there was no damage other than the single wound.  A very lucky pup!

About that time I learned that the pit bull's owner was in the lobby and was concerned about any harm to his own dog. Once again I had to juggle cases and thoughts.  Remember that I already had cases in the rooms that I was supposed to be working on!

Let me interrupt my narrative to explain a few things.  First, I think pit bulls have an undeserved reputation and most of the ones I've worked with over the years have been very sweet and friendly.  They are actually good dogs, but if they decide to bite they can do serious harm due to the strength of their jaws.  Second, when triaging and assessing cases I don't have room to place blame and must first concentrate on my patients' health.  I think the people were completely justified in doing whatever it took to get the pit off the husky, but once that was done I needed to take care of both patients.

Some disinfectant, a little lidocaine, and a few staples later and the puppy was doing fine.  She was even wagging her tail and exploring the room while the local anesthetic took effect.  Sent home with analgesics and antibiotics she'll come back in 10 days to remove the staples and I expect the scar to be unnoticeable once the fur regrows.

The pit bull was very nice when I examined him and showed no signs of aggression.  He had a little swelling on the top of his muzzle from being hit, but was otherwise uninjured and had no pain.  I ended up not needing to do anything to treat him and didn't mark him as a dangerous pet.  I think something about the puppy startled him and he quickly lunged out.  The pet store manager said that he had been in the store many times and had never had problems before.

All of that was quite the adrenalin rush and required me to alter my thoughts and plans at the drop of a hat while juggling three different cases at the same time.  And after all of that?  A couple of more routine cases to finish out the day.  Work doesn't stop just because an emergency comes in.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting post. Glad that there wasn't any conflict that occurred between the pet owners while in your clinic; sometimes people can get very protective/defensive after the fact which can escalate the whole situation and make things worse.

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  2. I love pitties. BUT - I do think they show an above ordinary amount of aggression towards other dogs. People not so much. I'd rather stick my fingers in a pit's mouth any day (say, over a chi or a pom). That said, I always worn people that pit bulls should be supervised closely when interacting with other dogs.

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  3. I agree, HP. While I don't think they're the ticking time bombs that most people have the impression of, I do recognize and tell people that they can have an innate tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs.

    I found out today that the puppy's owner is planning on filing a police report and has contacted the pet store's corporate office to get pit bulls banned from all of their locations. I'm sure she wouldn't understand that to most vets a Siberian husky is more of a bite and behavioral risk than a pit bull is.

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  4. I'm also glad there wasn't conflict between the owner of the pit and the owner of the puppy. I have a mini dachshund who is very sweet towards everything that breathes, but I'd feel HORRIBLE if my dog hurt another one, and would probably offer to pay the vet bills.

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