Pet’s injury puts vet on the other side of the table
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson
As you may know by now, I (Dr. Perry Jameson) have five cats and two dogs that are part of my family. Joseph, the cat, is the newest addition, and recently he helped remind me what it is like on the other side of the exam room.
Daily, I have conversations with the parents of pets about what problem I have diagnosed and what treatment options are available to deal with that problem. In our practice, these are often discussions about chronic, lifelong therapies, terminal diseases and end-of-life decisions.
I try to put myself in their position as I discuss options, patiently answer questions and wait for their decision. Occasionally, it is good for me to be placed in the role of client instead of doctor to keep it all in perspective.
Joseph showed up at our home the week of July Fourth last year. At that time, we had a friend’s family visiting, so there were not only the six animals but four adults and four children in our three-bedroom home.
Joseph is a pure bred Bengal, so he is bigger than the four other cats. I think this made him intimidating to them, so they immediately would hiss and growl whenever he sneaked through the cat door. We still do not understand why he chose us with all the commotion going on. Certainly, there must have been quieter homes somewhere along the way.
The next week, I brought him to the office and scanned him for a microchip. We were able to track down his original mom. She was glad to hear from us, but had developed allergies so severe she could not keep him any longer. She was glad he had found us and was happy when we decided to keep him. Luckily, he decided to keep us, too, and was soon sleeping in our bed (usually under the covers).
Our other four cats stay around the house, but Joseph roams and is often gone for most of the day. On a Monday about three weeks ago, our doorbell rang about 6:30 p.m. A woman was there sobbing saying she had hit a cat on Maybank Highway, and our neighbor brought her to our home. We did not think it could be one of our cats, but when my wife looked into her back seat, she saw our Joseph.
He was panting heavily, as cats do when stressed, and his rear legs were limp. I was certain he had a broken back or had severe chest trauma and we would have to euthanize him. I have found that when one of my pets is ill, I lose all sense of reason. My thoughts are no longer logical but driven by emotion. This, I realize, is how many of my clients feel. A special member of their family is ill, and I am often telling them news no one ever wants to hear.
Once at the hospital, Dr. Kelly Klein, an ER doctor, saw how distraught I was and immediately took him from me. In shock, I watched as she quickly placed an IV catheter and administered pain medication.
Once Joseph was stable, Dr. Kelly had the nurses take several radiographs to assess the damage.
Dr. Mike Schlicksup, the surgeon on duty, was still in the hospital and assessed the films. By some miracle, the only major problem was a dislocated hip.
Joseph was stabilized, sedated the following day, and Dr. Mike tried to put the hip back in place. Unfortunately, the supportive muscles and ligaments were so stretched and torn it would not stay in place.
Dr. Mike explained that the best option was to remove the head of the femur. This basically eliminates the hip joint all together. I have seen hundreds of dogs and cats do fantastic with this procedure, but to my own cat, it seemed so drastic. Plus it required the danger of general anesthesia. Dr. Mike patiently explained that since Joseph was otherwise healthy, the risks were low and felt he would recover well. We consented to the procedure.
Dr. Mike was right. Joseph recovered well from the surgery and came home shortly thereafter. Dr. Mike sent me home with a long list of instructions, including oral medications and an e-collar. If any of you have ever tried to give a cat a pill or keep one in an e-collar, you understand my plight. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to give him all of the medications or keep the e-collar on him, but somehow, we all struggled through it!
At this time, Joseph is doing well. Each day, he gets a little stronger, and the other four cats are even starting to hiss at him as he limps around the house again. This was a humbling experience for me and a good reminder of what it is like to be a pet owner again and not the veterinarian in charge.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to email@example.com.