5 (more) life threatening emergencies

*The following information has been provided by Dr. Phil Zeltzman, a board-certified veterinary surgeon from Whitehall, Pennsylvania as a courtesy to goodnewsforpets readers. The following article is only for the sharing of knowledge and information; it is not intended to replace consultation of a veterinarian or other qualified pet care professional. To subscribe to his newsletter, here.

There are so many surgical emergencies that it is tough to limit this newsletter to just 5. We discussed 5 true emergency situations recently. To sort through the other ones, I asked myself which ones requires surgery TODAY, or even within the next few hours, to avoid death or serious long-term complications. So although this list may be debatable, here are the results…

6. Hit by car

Hit by car patients are almost a daily occurrence at general, emergency and surgery practices.
It is difficult to summarize the consequences, because virtually every bone can be fractured (broken) in the process. However, fractures are hardly ever a true emergency… as long as proper medical support and pain management have been instituted.
What is urgent is to stabilize a patient in shock, or control an irregular heart beat, or treat an air leak in the lung (pneumothorax), or give a blood transfusion for severe bleeding, or treat a ruptured (torn) bladder.
You get the idea. Hit by car patients can have numerous problems that need prompt and serious attention.

7. Bite wounds

Bite wounds are an emergency because, left untreated, they can cause nasty infections. Cat bites commonly lead to the famous “cat abscess.”
Evaluating bite wounds often requires sedation if not general anesthesia to explore them, assess their extent, clean them up and treat them appropriately.
Occasionally, bite wounds can cause life-threatening problems. A classic example is bite wounds to the chest, which can lead to broken ribs, a hole in the chest wall and/or an air leak in the lung (pneumothorax).
Another big deal is bite wounds to the belly. A serious bite could cause a hole in the intestine… which can be very difficult to prove until it’s too late.
Sadly, pet owners may neglect a bite wound because it sometimes doesn’t look like much: a couple of holes in the skin here and there. Vets call that “the iceberg phenomenon.”However, what we may find under the skin is serious damage: torn muscles, bleeding vessels, broken bones, leaky lungs, perforated bowels etc.
We saw a very sad case recently. A 4 year old Pomeranian, who was on a leash, was attacked by 2 loose German Shepherds. Guess who won…
Long story short, the poor Pom Pom died a few days later despite everything we did, including emergency treatment, transfusions and surgeries. It was a terrible situation.
Bottom line: bite wounds should be evaluated by a vet ASAP.

8. Gunshot wounds

Similarly, gunshot wounds can cause infections, as well a number of life-threatening situations depending on their exact location.
One patient had several bullet wounds to the belly. Exploratory surgery revealed multiple holes in the intestines. This, as we have discussed above, causes poop to leak into the belly, which causes an infected belly or “septic peritonitis.”
It is easy to be misled. Just like with bite wounds, on the surface, we may only see a tiny hole in the skin. But inside, serious injuries may be present.
I also remember a kitty whose spleen was literally cut in half by a bullet. Sadly, cats are common targets for bored kids with BB guns…

9. C-section

A Cesarean section is necessary when a female can’t deliver her puppies or kittens on her own. There may be several reasons, such as:. The uterus doesn’t function properly or doesn’t respond to drugs.. The puppies or kittens are too large to go through the pelvis.. At least one of them is in an abnormal position.
The most common dog breeds include those with big heads (Bulldogs, Bostons, Pugs) and miniature breeds (Chihuahuas, Pekenese, Yorkies). In cats, Persians can be affected.
One of the biggest challenges of a C-section is anesthesia, as it can affect the offspring.

10. Pyometra

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus in non-spayed females. We typically think of dogs as being prime candidate for “pyo,” but we also see this condition in cats.
They get very sick from it. They may drink much more, urinate more, vomit and display lethargy. This is bad enough in itself, as it is caused by kidney damage.
But the dreaded risk is a rupture of the pyometra which will lead to an infected belly aka “septic peritonitis.”
Treatment involves lots of IV fluids and antibiotics. Once the patient is more stable, surgery is sort of a complicated spay: the ovaries and the pus-filled uterus are removed.As we have discussed before, the easiest way to prevent a “pyo” is to spay female cats and dogs.
As a reminder, spaying is also the only way to prevent breast (mammary) cancer in pets… as long as it is performed before the first heat.

Hopefully, none of these situations will happen to your pet. If they do, at least you’ll be informed and you’ll know what to do: stay calm, call your vet or your local emergency clinic, and take your pet there ASAP.

Another update on puppy mills: A colleague just shared this story:

“We saw a 2 month old Golden puppy who has a wicked heart murmur. The clients paid $650 for him from a nice little Amish girl who told them their family breeds for a hobby.Why did they go to this farm near Lancaster, PA? Because when they called serious breeders, they put them on a waiting list and asked them a bunch of questions.On top of that, the average cost of a puppy was $1,500 at the breeder.The owners didn’t think they needed “all those health clearance things” because they were “not looking for a show dog.”

On the opposite, the nice Amish people told them the dog was guaranteed against hip dysplasia. They had a puppy ready to go and asked them no questions.Sadly, they learned the hard way. If they fix the heart murmur with surgery, the puppy will ultimately “cost” much more… and will have to go through surgery.”

What’s the moral of this sad story?
1. Serious breeders have a waiting list for a reason. They don’t mass produce 200 or 500 dogs each year. They take their time, choose the parents wisely, avoid in-breeding, do their homework, etc.
2. Serious breeders ask a bunch of questions because they care where their puppies end up. They want to make sure they will be well taken care of.
3. Sadly for this family and this puppy, “convenience” can have a steep price…


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