This is one of those crazy things. We’ve seen lots of dogs with severe wounds that needed help, lots of nasty messes. Officer Petix has posted pictures of a lot of damaged animals. What is it that makes a particular case “speak” to people? Why does this guy generate 300,000 shares and an outpouring of support for the work of the Kennett Humane Department ? I must admit I do not know. He is a terrific dog, so friendly and happy and cooperative, and he really needed the help, but how can you know that from a picture of his nasty wounds? Anyway, here is his story. He was KHD case number 2222, and now he’s “Jude”.
Folks saw him out in the country and called Officer Petix to ask for help. His wounds were big, ugly, grossly contaminated and infected. Despite this, he seemed pretty alert and strong. She collected him and brought him to Kennett Veterinary Clinic. On the way she retrieved this copper bullet jacket from the open wound.
You could see two thin, linear and superficial wounds that I would call “bullet creases”. (I’d call them that because I’ve spent many an hour watching old Westerns.) Then there was a quarter-size wound that I think was the original bullet entry, though I suspect it was a lot smaller when it started (like about 5mm, same as the base of the bullet jacket). Just ahead of that was the first hand-sized open wound over the chest wall. These two are connected by a big pocket under the skin. And finally, over the right shoulder, another hand-sized mess. That was kind of weird – it looked like one entry wound and two exit wounds, which even with “new math” doesn’t add up.
We anesthetized him and began by filling the wounds with sterile gel, then shaving the skin around them, and here Anna is scrubbing the skin. Then I spent about 30 minutes flushing with dilute antiseptic and wiping with sterile gauze until the wounds looked like part of the dog instead of something the dog drug in, ate and threw up.
The cleaning revealed a broken rib with a long-contaminated devitalized area on one exposed end. We also found that the tissue was not what normally underlies the skin, but granulation tissue (the body’s “fill in the gap” temporary stuff) and a lot of scar tissue. These wounds looked to be a couple of weeks old.
Despite the huge openings, I was able to undermine the skin, and close the wounds. I took off as much funky rib tissue as I felt comfortable with. I wasn’t anxious to open a hole into his chest and let in all the yuck.
Unfortunately, closing this mess leaves big pockets underneath the skin, pockets that are full of germs, and lined with tissue that is oozing fluid constantly. That would be a pretty good place to grow a heck of an infection (if he didn’t have one already, which he did).
We started Jude on two different antibiotics to get the infection under control, but if the pocket had stayed full of fluid, the medicine would never have gotten into the middle of it. That’s why you put drainage tubes in the wound. This lets the fluid get out. Bandaging puts the parts back against their normal underlying support, and wicks the drainage away from the body. What you hope is that the pocket will seal down everywhere except where the drainage tubes lie. Then, in a few days you remove the tubes and things get all well… you hope.
The next step was chest X-rays. Considering how old the wounds were, I didn’t feel it likely that his chest had free fluid, free air, collapsed lungs or anything similar. He seemed to be doing too well. If he hadn’t, we’d have X-rayed him first. As I had hoped, there was no problem there, aside from the broken rib. The X-rays are not as good as I would like, but we had the critical information, and decided not to stress him by repeated attempts to get “perfect” pictures.
The interesting thing on the X-rays is the pattern of lead “tracks”. You can see these as little bright white spots on the X-ray pictures. When the rifle bullet entered the flank at a superficial angle, it struck the rib. The rib broke, and the bullet shattered. This left tiny fragments of lead in the wound, which you can see on the X-ray. There are lead tracks in both large wounds, yet the wound over the shoulder has no apparent entry wound, and there is no connection between it and the flank wounds, and no lead tracks between them.
This makes me think that when the bullet shattered against the rib, a piece flew forward and “zipped open” the shoulder. Then then motion of the front leg caused the wound to spread out, and dirt and germs did the rest.
It looks like somebody was shooting at him to run him off, and the bullet took him from behind. When I first saw this mess, I wouldn’t have guessed we were dealing with a single bullet, but that’s what I think happened.
One of the films showed a .22 caliber pellet lodged in the tissue, but that wound was old and long healed. The body just walls off that lead and it rarely creates a problem. Again, I’ve watched a lot of old Westerns, but I resisted the temptation to call for a hot knife and a bottle of whiskey to dig it out.
From here, it was a question of good nursing care. Jude was on I.V. fluids for a day, but rapidly began eating and drinking on his own, and we were able to switch from I.V. to oral antibiotics and pain medicines. Daily bandage changes were a must, as the large amounts of fluid got them pretty well soaked in 24 hours.
The dog was infested with hookworms and tapeworms, but surprisingly had a negative blood test for heartworms (“negative” equals “good” in this case).
Jude got stronger every day, and friendlier every day. You couldn’t help liking the guy. Despite everything he had been through (and was still going through), he was always eager to greet you, wagging his tail, dying for you to pet him… which we did… a lot.
After seven days, we removed the drains. They usually come out in 3 to 5 days, but this was not a usual situation. Though there was still considerable drainage, it was much reduced, and the drains themselves are foreign objects that cannot be left in indefinitely. He was getting pretty tired of the bandages and starting to chew them, so we added a T-shirt to his regimen. I didn’t have any around the clinic, and I hated to drive home just for that, so I took off my undershirt (it was VERY clean), and used that. Much was made of me giving him “the shirt off my back”.
When Jude’s pictures hit the internet via the Kennett Humane Department Facebook page, there were many calls and emails asking about him and making financial contributions for his treatment. In addition, several different rescue organizations offered to take him and complete his rehabilitation once he was stable enough to travel. The Great Plains Pointer Rescue from Nebraska seemed like the best fit, and on Friday, twelve days after we met him, one of their volunteers was here bright and early to get him.
Best wishes to him on the next phase of his adventure. Somewhere, somebody is going to have one great friend.