Maggie the Wonder Dog

February 9, 2014Riverbend Tales, Surgery
Author: David S. Thomson DVM

Maggie was a 3-½ year old wheezy Pit Bull who was given up to T.J. O’Connor at the end of last year. When the veterinarian at TJO anesthetized the dog to spay her, only a small endotracheal tube (one sized for a Chihuahua, not a 60-lb Pit Bull) could be passed down Maggie’s throat because her airway was badly blocked. That wouldn’t do, so Maggie was sent up to Riverbend to see if we could fix her breathing before spaying her.

On arrival here, Maggie was wheezing and gasping, but she was also smiling from ear to ear and wiggling with unrestrained excitement and joy. What a great dog! We sedated Maggie and examined her throat. I discovered a web of scar tissue blocking nearly the entire airway. I could not say what had caused this blockage. Maybe it was a burn wound. Maybe a foreign body had been stuck there for a while. Maybe this was scar tissue secondary to bite wounds. Or possibly it was fibrosis secondary to a clumsy attempt to debark poor Maggie.

In any case, Maggie could not carry on with this web of scar tissue blocking her airway; it needed to be removed. I had actually never performed this particular surgery before, as this type of blockage is quite rare. But there was not much choice — Maggie needed to breath.

After surgery, sweet Maggie went home with Kristin, one of our surgery nurses, to be watched closely throughout that first night. But at 10 pm, I got a call – Maggie’s entire body was swelling up like a balloon. Kristin quickly got her back to Riverbend, where I grabbed a needle and poked it in her side. Whoosh, air whistled out like a deflating balloon. The surgical site at the larynx was leaking, and air had been filling the tissue space beneath the skin. Poor Maggie — she looked like a beach ball.

We re-anesthetized Maggie while continuing to deflate her with needles and suction. I re-sutured the larynx, but this time, airtight. Maggie woke up comfortably, and she has been thriving ever since. It took about two weeks for the subcutaneous air to disappear completely, and now she is svelte and sleek.

Quite by accident, Kristin soon discovered that Maggie could detect low blood sugar in people, even before any clinical signs started to show. Wow! So now Maggie is being trained as a therapy dog. And to add an even happier ending to this story, Kristin has officially adopted Maggie, who has completely settled into her new home.

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