It’s been almost six years of blogging and still I’ve never written a post about a patient who needed financial assistance — as in, yours. I guess I’ve always felt it was kind of tacky to lean on my readers.

And yet the blogosphere teems with those who explicitly seek funds on behalf of individual needy pets. Which is how I got to wondering … dare I break down and give it a go?

Obviously I’ve answered myself in the affirmative. Why not try it just this once? After all, this is one patient most of us can get behind.

Sharkey is a five-month-old rescue dog who’s currently in foster care here in Miami. He looks sort of like what you’d get if a Rottweiler and a Dachshund got together (which is highly unlikely, but you get the picture).

When his foster mom took him in a couple of weeks ago she was told he’d been having trouble keeping his food down and that he’d been diagnosed with megaesophagus; which she apparently did not fully comprehend the significance of.

This condition involves the dilation and ultimate incompetence of the esophagus to keep food moving down its rightful path into the stomach. These pets tend to regurgitate their food. This can be a very bad thing, especially since it often leads to malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia.

In Sharkey’s case, this is especially bad, indeed, because what is causing the megaesophagus is something completely incurable … without expensive thoracic surgery.

As it is, foster mom has spent about $600 to $700 in (discounted) care at our hospital. And by now she’s starting to reach the end of her financial tether. Sure, when you take in a foster dog you know you’ll have to spend some bucks to get them organized … but you never actually think you’ll be shouldering big bucks. In this case, for open-chest surgery to treat a congenital condition called persistent right aortic arch.

In this hereditary disease, an abnormal vessel wraps around the esophagus, thereby constricting it and leading to a partial obstruction for food as it attempts to make its way into the stomach. Hence, the eventual stretching and widening of the esophagus when food balls up ahead of the vascular impediment.

Here’s a picture of what the obstruction looks like on an X-ray when contrast material (barium) is used to highlight the esophagus:

persistent right aortic arch, megaesophagus, aspiration pneumonia, thoracic surgery, hereditary disease, abnormal vessel, widening of the esophagus

persistent right aortic arch, megaesophagus, aspiration pneumonia, thoracic surgery, hereditary disease, abnormal vessel, widening of the esophagus

So it is that Sharkey needs surgery if he’s to survive — and the sooner the better. Which is why this impressively well-socialized rescue dog’s plight called out to me. Though he was my in-hospital colleague’s patient, I figured I’d try to tap my vet surgeon significant-other’s skills. Can’t hurt to ask.

Thankfully, he said yes; there would be no charge for his time. But the hospital manager did intervene (as was perfectly reasonable, I think), did some calculations, and offered this fancy thoracoscopically-assisted procedure at cost. Which is still a bit over a thousand bucks (down from about $4,000).

Though you might say (and rightly so) that any foster parent should be prepared to pay for treatment of any condition the pet might reasonably incur … sometimes it’s not always reasonable.

Which is why I’ve decided to step up and ask point-blank for donations. After all, is a couple of bucks here and there too much to ask? Maybe for some of you, but surely not for all, right?

Still, the question remains: Is it tacky to ask?

Sharket the dog, dog needs surgery, help this dog, foster dog, megaesophagus, thoracic surgery, persistent right aortic arch

If you are interested in donating to Sharkey’s cause (look deeply into those eyes!), send me a personal check made out to Miami Veterinary Specialists at:

Sunset Animal Clinic

c/o Dr. Patty Khuly

8776 Sunset Drive

Miami, FL 33173

I’ll do the collecting and the distributing. And if there’s money left over, we’ll decide as a community where the balance should go. Fair enough?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Would You Give to This Dog? by Steve Rhode

charity for pets, dog panhandler, dog begging, giving to dogs, dogs that need help