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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Roxy's Incredible Story

I am going to break form today and not talk about nutrition and weight loss, but instead share a story of an incredible dog: Roxy, and her incredible will to live.

Roxy is a very timid pit bull/dalmation cross whose only desire is to love and please humans. On last New Year’s Eve she was at her owner’s business when a fireworks celebration began. Scared and probably hysterical, she managed to flee the area. There is no accounting for her journey, but eventually she ended up in a steep ravine with compound fractures (bones protruding from the skin) of both wrists. For five weeks she suffered alone in the ravine during the coldest, wettest, and darkest part of the year with these open wounds; amongst coyotes and with no medical care.

At some point during her entrapment in the ravine, someone discovered her and began feeding her. Her protective posture, her pit bull appearance, and her grumbled growls scared this person so that they felt they were unable to approach. Over time, they were able to get close enough to read the phone number on her collar tags. They called her owner. Her owner rushed her to a hospital where I am now employed and the first part of her ordeal had ended.

Valiantly she tried to walk through the doors of our veterinary hospital on non-functional front legs. Our staff quickly scooped her up and carried her and her limp, bleedings forelimbs to the hospital treatment area. The owner asked us to do all we could to "fix her." Despite the pain and unfamiliar surroundings, she let the staff perform diagnostic X-rays. During the procedure, fear got the better of her and she expressed her anal glands. In all of this confusion her response was not to bite or threaten, but only to reach back and lick her anal area to rid it of the awful odor. She was embarrassed. She still persists in this fastidious behavior.

With the severity of her fractures identified, she underwent surgery. A bone plate was successful in one limb, but the other was so fragile from the injury and time without care that it could only be splinted with the hope of higher intervention. A precautionary splint was put on the plated leg.

That is where the second phase of her ordeal and my introduction to Roxy began. I began as a relief veterinarian for Roxy’s hospital at the time she was coming in for bandage changes on her post-surgical splints. Initially, everything was progressing great. And then Roxy was brought back to the hospital after her last bandage change because she was tearing at the splint and biting her foot. Upon removing the bandage, a raging infection that was destroying the skin on her paw and toe pads was discovered. More aggressive antibiotic therapy was initiated but was met with limited results. Bacterial cultures confirmed that Roxy’s time without medical care and her post-surgical treatment with antibiotics allowed a "flesh eating" drug resistant bacteria (MRSP — methicillin resistant Staph. pseudintermedius) to expose its ugly head. Orthopedic patients are very prone to this condition due to the long periods on antibiotics.

The second phase of Roxy’s ordeal began. The toes and toe pads were being eaten away by the bacteria. Due to the severity of the infection and the necessity of treating them topically and debriding them (removing dead tissue by scrubbing), splinting her leg to allow bone healing was no longer an option. We had to confine her activity so she wouldn’t use her legs. Being a proper lady, she would not urinate or defecate (poop) in her run. That would be un-lady like. The staff began putting her on a blanket sling and carrying her to a grassy patch where she readily performed nature’s duties. After weeks of wound healing from the MRSP, she could finally walk to her grassy area to perform. Phase 2 was over and phase 3 began.

Because the bacteria had destroyed so much tissue in her left leg and it had to heal without splinting, she collapsed on her wrist and could not walk on the pads of her paw normally. She basically walks on the end of the radius (one of the long bones of the leg below the elbow). Pain treatment became a constant because of this unfortunate gait. Her owner could not accept this level of disability and the future bills involved with possible corrective surgery. He asked me to euthanize Roxy. By then her bravery and will to live had moved our entire staff and "putting her to sleep" was not an option. He relinquished ownership and now Roxy is my dog.

Phase 4 will be tough, but she is brave, loved, and is a daily inspiration that keeps our lives in perspective.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Roxy

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