D. E. Larsen, DVM
We moved the exam table to the side of the exam room to give a little more room to examine Michael’s Great Pyrenees. Jasmine was sore and had s small spot of blood in the middle of her back.
“What do you think is wrong, Doc,” Michael asked?
“I don’t know. We need to shave some of this hair and look for the source of that blood. When did this happen?”
“She was fine last night, and I had to really coax her to get out of her bed this morning.”
Jasmine winced when I felt over the bloodied hair. Rather than a clipper, I shaved the hair away with a straight razor.
“Looks like a bullet wound to me,” I said. “It is probably a twenty-two, based on the size of the hole. Looks like we are going to have to lift her onto the x-ray table.”
With Michael’s help, we got her on the x-ray table and took a set of x-rays.
“This bullet is lodged in her lumbar spine. It looks really close to the spinal cord, but she is neurologically normal.”
“Do you think we need to remove it,” Michael asked?
“This looks like a difficult surgery for me. Dr. Slocum in Eugene would have the equipment to get in there and remove the bullet,” I said.
“And I am sure that would cost a bundle,” Michael said. “My thinking is if you can’t do it, it is not going to get done.”
“We leave a lot of bullets right where they lay,” I said. “As long as they are not causing any problems, sometimes you do more damage trying to remove them than you do good. This isn’t the old west.”
“That sounds good to me,” Michael said. “Does she need any treatment?”
“I will clean up the wound and give her some antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory medication. Then we will just have to watch her closely for problems with her hind legs.”
We scrubbed the wound, and I flushed it with a saline and antibiotic solution. Then I gave an injection of antibiotics and Banamine. Banamine was not approved for use in the dog. Still, it was the only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory available at the time.
We sent Jasmine home with some pills and some Banamine paste.
“I want to see her the first of next week,” I said. “If you notice her unable to use her hind legs or any weakness there, you call right away.”
The next week, Jasmine’s wound was healed, and she acted like there was nothing wrong. There was no neurological disfunction to her hind legs.
“Looks like we are good to go,” I said as I patted Jasmine on the head. “Now you just have to figure out who did this.”
“We already know who did the shooting,” Michael said. “He is a neighbor and has complained about the dogs more than once. There is a good fence, and there is no way Jasmine was out of our property.”
“You know, you can talk with the Sheriff,” I said.
“Not much sense in that. It would be far more hassle than it is worth.”
Jasmine was in and out of the clinic a couple of times of the year for the next several years and displayed no problems. One could have easily forgotten her bullet wound had it not been noted on her records’ front page.
Michael called one morning, about three years after the gunshot injury.
“Jasmine has trouble walking this morning,” Michael said. “She was fine yesterday, but today she has a lot of trouble making her hind legs work.”
“Let’s bring her in and get a picture of that back.”
There we were again, struggling to lift a 200-pound dog onto the x-ray table.
“I think this shows pretty well that we are going to have to go in and get that bullet. It hasn’t moved, but you can see the bullet is surrounded by this dark shadow on the film if you look close. That is the bone dissolved, probably from a chronic infection around the bullet. It is probably eroding into the spinal canal.”
“Do you think you can get it,” Michael asked?
“Three years have not changed much. There are better experience and equipment in Eugene. But with all that stuff around the bullet, it should be easy to remove if I can get down to it.”
“We have pretty much decided that we are not going to Eugene. So if it going to get done, you are the one who is going to do it. Marilyn and I have total trust in you. You just do your best, and we are fine with whatever the outcome happens to be.”
In a small veterinary clinic, a 200-pound dog makes everything more complicated. Anesthesia is difficult just from the size. The dog requires a larger endotracheal tube. The oxygen and gas consumption is high enough to be worrisome if the procedure ends up being a long one.
I carefully mapped the location of the bullet. With a midline incision on her back, I carefully moved the muscles away from the vertebrae. Once the vertebrae were exposed, some black fluid leaked from the hole occupied by the bullet. I was able to grasp the bullet with forceps and pull it from the hole. There was a slight sucking sound as the bullet was removed from the hole. Now there was this hole filled with black exudate.
I carefully packed off the area with gauze sponges and started aspirating and flushing the material from the hole. Once it was cleaned, I carefully explored the area. The hole looked clean, and I could not see any evidence that there was any leakage into the spinal canal.
After a final flush with saline and antibiotics, I packed the area with an antibiotic powder and closed the incision.
We recovered Jasmine in a large kennel. Once she was awake, I opened the kennel door, and she jumped up, apparently cured. She was stable on her hind legs.
I gave an audible sigh of relief.
Jasmine went home and healed uneventfully, Returning to her duties on the farm. And, I trust, avoiding the far fence line.
Photo by Shane Kell from Pexels