Last night, I got to see one of my least favorite things as a veterinarian...and that's saying a lot! There are tons of things I hate to see. This was a case of neglect, but it was difficult to tell how to classify it. The owners certainly loved their pet and were devastated by her condition. On the other hand, this condition had been present for several days.
Around 9pm, we were presented with a laterally recumbent English sheep dog. She was breathing rapidly, barely responsive, and her temperature was 105 degrees. Her heart thudded along at 200 beats per minute (normal 100-120). Her gums were injected and dry. Attending her was a smell that I am all to familiar with (as are all my technicians). The smell of an open dumpster in the dead of July.
She'd been down and unable to rise for an unknown number of days. The owners claimed she was normal until that day, but we knew better. Her rear end was caked with fecal matter, her vulva was swollen and matted, and she was splinting her abdomen as hard as if she was trying to push out a baby (she was spayed). She was in agony. Maggots were caked around her rear end. There weren't enough there to explain the smell, and her bad condition. So, we shaved her and found the problem.
On her back, directly above her tail, were two gaping holes. The tissue was dead, and there was a clearly demarcated area extending halfway up her back of totally dead skin. There were thousands and thousands of maggots in these holes. A seething, boiling mass of maggots. Thousands upon thousands, ranging in size from 1cm to 2 inches (days old).
Her owner was stunned. "But I pet her back there!" he said. "I never felt anything." My skin crawled (pun not intended) at the thought, but I tried as gently as possible to explain to him that his dog was likely septic, was dying in front of us, and unless he had several thousands of dollars and weeks to invest in healing - with a 50/50 prognosis AT BEST - then he needed to euthanize his dog. Privately, I thought the dog's chances (given that she was trying to die in front of us), were way less than 50%.
After much discussion, the owner decided - wisely - to let her go. I tried to explain to him how vulnerable dogs are to maggots in the spring, especially if they get down but can't get up. Lying in feces and urine is a magnet for these disgusting little buggers. It's unfortunately something we see a fair amount of in the summer.
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