UT VMC emergency room tails: The puppy and the spring

utvmc web headerBy Dr. Amanda Rainey

We usually do experience more interesting cases after a holiday and the day after Thanksgiving was no exception. A woman called and informed our emergency technician that she had found a small puppy with something stuck in her mouth.

They had been out doing black Friday shopping and come across this little pup with a large wire stuck in her mouth. We couldn’t tell from the call if the puppy was just holding the metal object in her mouth or if it was actually puncturing her tissue, but advised the caller to bring her in straight away.

“ER to the front stat!!!” Was the call over the intercom when the puppy arrived and, as they are trained, our fourth year students on the ER rotation hit the flooring running to evaluate the case. Our front desk staff only calls stat when there is a serious case arriving so those of us left behind in the triage room began prepping for the arrival by gathering materials to place an IV catheter, tubes and syringes for blood draws and pulling down an oxygen line in case the puppy was in respiratory distress.

In the blink of an eye the puppy was in the room, gently cradled by a male student on the rotation. “She’s ok, just scared and has to be uncomfortable with that in her mouth,”  he exclaimed. I examined her and found her to be an approximately eight week old female Labrador mix and although she had what appeared to be a bedspring emanating from her mouth, she did indeed seem to be very normal.

It was an amazing sight to behold however, because the spring was actually larger than the puppy due to her young age and small size.  Somehow it had penetrated her mouth, gone through her bottom jaw and come out through the skin under her chin.

We placed an IV catheter in one of her limbs and administered a mild sedative to calm her because, naturally being a puppy, she was excited and wanted to play with us although every time she would wiggle, her mouth would become very painful. Then it was time to break out some heavy equipment, meaning we needed to find some wire cutters to trim the spring close to her jaw in order to remove the piece actually embedded in her mouth. After a brief scramble one of our helpful custodians was able to procure them and the spring was trimmed after which we shimmied it free from her tiny mouth.

We were all very relieved and pleased that her bottom jaw did not seem to be broken and the wound left by the spring did not appear to be serious. The only thing left to do was start her on some antibiotics and pain medication, but the bigger task was to find her a home. The best surprise of the day came next though when the male student who had been on her case immediately spoke up and offered to be her forever home.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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