Expect the Unexpected!
Updated: May 20, 2020
I have been doing this job now for 28 years and I am still regularly surprised by what we find in the patients who presented to us. I guess that is why I still find the job interesting and engaging.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kevin a delightful, energetic “Schoodle” who had injured himself and was hopping around on 3 legs. Our lovely vet Lisa had diagnosed a cruciate injury in his knee and he was booked in for me to do the surgery. As part of the investigation to confirm the diagnosis, we always take x-rays even though in this case the diagnosis seemed quite obvious.
Sure enough, the x-ray of his knee supported our diagnosis of a cranial cruciate injury and no other abnormalities were seen in his leg. Now because Kevin’s legs are not very long and he is quite a small dog, we managed to have a portion of his belly in the x-ray picture. You can imagine our surprise when we noticed multiple small stones visible in his bladder! This was also a big surprise to Kevin's human companions who were none the wiser to his additional predicament.
We examined his urine under a microscope and discovered traces of blood and an infection. Bladder stones in male dogs can cause a sudden crisis if they block up the water works, which will lead to a painful death if not unblocked. Affected dogs will become miserable, be constantly straining, stop eating, start vomiting, then spiral into acute renal failure and shock. So we had to shelve the knee surgery as his bladder stones now suddenly became a priority. We surgically removed the bladder stones from a very thickened and angry looking bladder. Kevin is making a good recovery but he is still hopping around on 3 legs.
One of the daily challenges of working with animals is that they cannot talk and don’t always show us what is wrong. We are constantly searching for subtle cues and using additional tests to uncover what is not obvious or what they don’t show us. Most animals have an innate instinct not to look weak or unwell; otherwise they may be targeted by predators or competitors. For dogs, the drive to stay actively engaged with their social unit is also strong as that is where they find safety, companionship and help with all the necessities of life. Unless the disease or injury is severe we may not initially see it.
Apart from his knee Kevin is recovering well. But poor Kevin will have to put up with his bung leg until he is fully recovered from his bladder stones and infection, then we can do his knee surgery. In the meantime he has reinforced for us the old saying, remember to expect the unexpected.