Patching up pets after car accidents

IT is often said that bad things come in threes. And so it appeared recently at our Whorral Bank hospital, where we’ve dealt with three different cases of pets being hit by cars in the past 10 days.

Luckily for them, and their owners, all have survived thanks to rapid expert attention.

The first of these cases came into our emergency service last Sunday night. The poor owner couldn’t really remember how the accident happened, but it seemed that Basil, a young Springer Spaniel, had somehow slipped his lead. He’d only been caught a glancing blow by the passing car, but was barely conscious when he arrived at Whorral Bank.

On initial examination (skip this paragraph if you’re squeamish), it seemed that the worst of his injuries was to his right hind leg. He appeared to have suffered a fracture, or several, to his femur, and the lower leg and foot had received a crush injury and such severe damage to the skin that all the structures underneath were visible – bones, tendons and all. It’s what we call a degloving injury, meaning that the skin is literally peeled back.

Thankfully, survey x-rays of his chest and abdomen all appeared normal. With the best possible pain relief and some sedation on board, dressings were applied on his damaged leg and he was set up on intravenous fluids.

Observations by our night nurse over the next few hours showed his breathing had become quicker and his breaths more shallow. Further chest x-rays showed a different picture to before. Basil now had a pneumothorax, likely due to a sort of slow puncture in one of his lungs. We set up a chest drain, which solved the problem. Tiny punctures will often self-seal and that was thankfully the case here.

He continued to improve through the day and so thoughts turned to his leg. Sadly the foot was too badly damaged to be able to heal even with several operations so the difficult decision was made to amputate his leg. This is always hard to come to terms with for owners, but in fact the majority of cats and dogs cope extremely well on three legs — cats will still climb trees and chase mice, and fit dogs are still more than capable of chasing cats.

Basil’s surgery went well and he was discharged two days later. I’m delighted to report that he’s made a remarkably quick recovery from his ordeal.

Our second case was only two days later. This time a cat was the unfortunate patient.

Her most pressing injury was a rupture in the lower abdominal muscles. This had resulted in her bladder being outside of the abdominal cavity, with only the skin stopping it and everything else in the abdomen spilling onto the floor. Needless to say, she was rushed to theatre where vet Jane and I spent the next two hours carefully putting everything back where it belonged and then reconstructing her abdominal wall.

Her only other injury is nerve damage to her left front leg, which, at the time of writing, is slowly improving. Like Basil, she too is recovering incredibly well.

Unlucky pet number three was another dog, a young Beagle cross, who suffered a broken front leg and tendon damage after an altercation with a car. Fortunately for him, he’d escaped with no other injuries.

I operated on him last week, placing a metal plate with six screws on the bone and repairing the tendons.

He’s due to have his first hydrotherapy session with Nikki Wilson at Whorral Bank this week, which should help to speed his recovery, but early signs are very good.

All three are exceptionally lucky animals. Cats are of course a law unto themselves, but I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is to have your dog on a strong lead, with a properly fitting collar, when walking alongside a road.

CHRIS GREEN, Director and Senior Vet