Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Three Legs are Better Than Four

Meet Mia....she is a young min pin that was left at the local Humane Society. The majority of animals left at the shelter end up there due to behavioral reasons. Mia, however, had a medical issue. Her right hind leg had clearly been injured some time ago, and no treatment (or insufficient treatment) obtained. Mangled, swollen and useless, Mia was able to hop around fairly well on her other three legs. From the injuries, it appeared that she had been tied up with a rope or chain that had gotten entangled around the leg, slicing through skin and tendons, compromising bloodflow and exposing delicate tissues. Her lymph nodes were hugely swollen, and she was running a fever. The only treatment option was very clear: the leg had to go.

Mia spent several days in the hospital on pain medication, antibiotics and special food and fluids to build her strength up for the operation. And last Friday, I anesthetized her and performed the surgery. One and a half hours later, she woke up spayed and three-legged. Many dogs, when waking up from anesthesia, do so in a momentary state of confusion. Mia woke up very slowly and peacefully, as if she knew her life and just gotten a whole lot better. Appearing to be painfree, she was standing and watching us comfortably within an hour of coming off of the surgery table. (In this picture you can see her standing in the ICU cage, a drain in her stump to provide escape for any remaining infection and fluid, and on a CRI (continuous rate infusion) of pain medication.) Three hours after surgery, I took her outside where she happily motored around, apparently having a much harder time figuring out how to trot with an IV in the her front leg rather than fretting over missing a hind one. It is a constant wonder to me the things that animals are able to put up with and the quickness of their recovery compared to our own.

She stayed in the hospital over the weekend, and yesterday went to her new home with a new name and new family...a totally new life. Since losing the leg, her fever is gone, her lymph nodes a quarter of the size they were and she is a happy, lovable dog. Min pins have a reputation for being "tenacious land sharks." However, Mia is different. Tenacious, she certainly is, but she is fun and loves people as well. She was clearly well-socialised in her previous life (whatever that was). The sad part of the story is that I have a feeling she was very much loved by her previous owners, but they were unable to get the care she needed when she was injured. I don't know if they called around to area clinics (they certainly never called ours), or if they just hoped she would get better on her own, but at least she has a happy ending now.

In school, the surgeons told us that "dogs were built with three legs and a spare" as a commentary on how well they do following an amputation. Good thing for Mia, that statement is very true.

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