Our emergency and critical care hospitals serve on the front lines of pet ownership disasters. My (Henri Bianucci) experiences there continuously inform and expand the list of threats that our pets are exposed to on a regular basis.
Last week, a woman presented her cat to our Mount Pleasant Hospital. Her outwardly calm demeanor was incongruent with the grave appearance of the cat. It appeared motionless, soaked to the skin and cold. He was whisked to the treatment area, where a very faint pulse was detected, although the temperature was too low to register, and breathing was shallow and coarse.
Bubbles appeared at the nose, and the lungs sounded severely congested. His nose and eyes appeared bruised and scraped, and his head was swollen on one side. It looked like he had been beaten severely and drowned. This is exactly what had happened, though no crime was committed.
This cat had accidentally been trapped in the washing machine.
Despite an aggressive attempt to address these issues, the cat declined rapidly and died shortly after arrival. I was, of course, heartsick for this cat. We see a lot of traumatic injuries at our hospitals, but seldom is an event as prolonged as running through a complete wash cycle. The cat would have to have struggled throughout the process. The physical punishment and emotional terror he had endured is difficult to imagine.
Sadly, our profession necessarily involves dealing with the emotional toll caused by the loss of a pet. When the death is the result of an accident, our sadness is often compounded by a sense of guilt. Sometimes, this is rightly so. After all, we are responsible for our pets safety. And when tragic events occur, they are often due to our own mistake or negligence.
Recently, woman had left the front door open, allowing the family’s beloved golden retriever to run into the street, where he was fatally struck by a car. Her grief was profound, and the weight of guilt, almost unbearable. We felt so sorry for her and were all deeply affected by her sadness.
The woman, whose cat had just died, was waiting outside on a bench. When the news was broken to her, she was overcome with grief, and I am sure, guilt. She was truly apoplectic as she dropped to the ground, screaming in disbelief.
I had seen that level of response before, and I could name the cases. One was a dog, which had been accidentally left in a car on a hot day. Another was a blind pug that had drowned in a pool. What do they have in common? They were fatal, preventable, and they were caused by the owners’ mistakes. But we see many cases that fit that description. But the common thread here that explains the impact upon the owners, is the prolonged suffering that was the result.
We have covered pets left in hot cars more than once on this page. Like a dog left in a hot car, a cat, or small dog, trapped in an appliance is certain to inflict extreme suffering, and, likely, death. One day after the cat in the washer experience, a cat that had been left in the dryer was brought in. Miraculously, this patient survived the 175 degree, 30-minute tumble.
So take precautions and prevent this avoidable tragedy from befalling your pet. Keep appliances, including dishwashers, closed when not in use. Check the washer and dryer before loading, and close them immediately after loading or unloading.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.