Ziggy is an “accident waiting to happen” kind of dog. For those of you who are long-time readers, you’ll recognize yet another story of the adventures of Ziggy. If you’re newer to the magazine, let me provide a little background. I’ve been fortunate to have many dogs, cats, and other creatures live long and uneventful lives in my care. My previous two dogs, for example, lived to 14 and 19, respectively— combined, they had fewer visits to the veterinarian in their lifetimes than my four-year-old dog, Ziggy has had to date.
I’ve told stories of him crashing through a glass patio door at three months old, finding a buried rattlesnake the day after snake avoidance training, suffering a “happy tail” injury, being let out while at a dog sitter’s house when the home was burglarized and staying lost for 24 hours, receiving a bite between the toes from either a snake or a black widow spider (while in his yard) that required a two-month healing process, getting a foxtail awn wedged so deeply between his toes that surgery was required to remove it, ditto for a foreign object in his ear … the list goes on and on, but you get the picture. His latest accident was just one of those unfortunate incidents that always seem to find their way to him. But with every one, there are lessons to be learned, and that makes my Ziggy a great teacher!
Here’s the story.
We were running in our neighborhood as we normally do. He was running beside me in perfect step. It was a beautiful morning, brisk for the desert, but a sparkling day. Instead of going home after our normal route, I decided to extend our run. As we approached an intersection, we stopped, looked for traffic and saw a car approaching a stop sign. The driver was slowing for the upcoming stop sign and made (what I thought to be) eye contact with me. So we stepped off the curb and started across the street. The driver made a rolling stop and hit us. I was barely bumped, but Ziggy was knocked over and his foot was partially pinned under the front tire.
The driver reacted immediately, stopping the car and starting to get out. I gestured emphatically for her to back up to free my dog’s foot from under the tire. I moved Ziggy out of the street. He was able to hobble on three legs. As I snapped photos with my mobile phone, she called my phone so I could have her contact information. She was a very responsible driver and immediately offered to pay for his vet bills. My house was less than half a block away, so within minutes, Ziggy was in my car and on the way to the vet. The extent of his injuries wasn’t apparent initially.
I’d called ahead to let the veterinarian know he had been in an accident and when we pulled up, he was led into the exam room immediately. X-rays were taken and, luckily, he had no broken bones or torn ligaments. But he did have something called “degloving” lacerations. There’s more information about that kind of injury in the sidebar on page 70. Basically, degloving happens when the surface skin stops moving; in this case, because the cement grabbed the skin and the tissue underneath the skin continued to move—the inertia from being hit by a car. The skin is torn off the underlying tissue. It is, in fact, as horrible as it sounds. The resulting lacerations required stitches and plenty of recuperation time and rest.
As with any injury requiring stitches, bed or crate rest helped the healing process. Pain medication and anti-inflammatories helped make the first few days of healing more bearable. The Elizabethan cone helped keep Ziggy from licking his bandages and infecting the wounds. Fourteen days later, I’m glad to say the stitches came out and he’s healing nicely. It’ll be a while before we can go for our normal morning runs, but I’m sure we will build back up to it.
So, what lessons did I take away from Ziggy’s frightening accident? There are several.
Crossing the Street
Yes, the driver should have stopped at the stop sign, but it would have been smarter for me to wait to make sure she came to a full stop before entering the intersection. Better yet, waiting for the intersection to be completely clear would have been even wiser. (See Valerie Masi’s article on page 66 about safety tips for dog walking.)
Always Carry Your Cell Phone
Having my mobile phone with me was very important:
■ I used it to document the accident and get the driver’s contact information.
■ I used it to call for help to bring a car from home and to call the vet and let her know we were on the way.
Get Some Training, Just in Case
The accident made it immediately apparent that I am lacking in first aid skills and had Ziggy been hurt badly, I would have been lost. I’m signing up for the next first aid clinic.
Keep Records Up to Date and Handy
Ziggy’s vet-ready folder is always ready to go, and it contains copies of his health insurance forms, along with all his health records. If his own veterinarian hadn’t been available, that folder would have been invaluable to an emergency room doctor, as it comes with us to every appointment and is always up to date.
■ The cone Ziggy had to wear had hard, sharp edges, so I added thin foam to the neckline to make it more comfortable against the skin of his neck (see photo on page 69). I added soft bandage tape to the outer edge, too. If your veterinarian has the clear, padded version of the cone, opt for it.
■ Dog pills go down easier when tucked into something yummy, but I have a smart dog, so I have to mix in some medicine-free yummy treats, too. I like to use the rapid-fire treat method: first, I casually hand him a yummy, medicine-free treat (chew, chew, chew, swallow). Then I pick up the pace, handing him a fast-moving series of small but equally yummy treats (no time to chew), several of which contain pills. Sneaky, yes, but it works for me.
■ Press and seal plastic wrap is a quick and temporary water-resistant covering for bandages. I wrapped his bandaged leg prior to going outside after the rain to keep the stitches dry. It stayed put during the walk and was easy to take off as soon as we got home.
■ Never let down your guard—stitches can be nibbled open in mere seconds. Yes, you guessed it. I took off the cone to give Ziggy lunch, turned my back for 45 seconds and he had nibbled two stitches off his foot. How fast can you make it back to your veterinarian’s office?
■ Make sure food and water bowls can be accessed with the cone on. I had to move Ziggy’s from their holder and place them on the floor.
■ When the stitches come out, wounds are still healing and an occasional lick is okay, but keep a close eye out for repeated licking/worrying at the healing tissue. The cone may need to be put back on temporarily.
One of the best decisions I made was to sign Ziggy up for pet health insurance. It may seem like an extravagance, but it has easily paid for itself.
So there you have it, another Ziggy story. While I’m always grateful for the happy endings, I do hope the next one I share will be about a more positive experience. Until then, I hope you and yours stay healthy and accident free.
What Does ‘Degloving’ Mean?
By Nikita Docken, D.V.M., Banning Veterinary Hospital
Degloving injuries involve the skin being pulled away from the subcutaneous attachments that keep it in its original position. These types of injuries are common in dogs or cats after they have been hit by a car but can also occur during trauma related to partial impalements, lacerations, wires or ropes, etc.
For dogs and cats, degloving normally occurs in hind limbs or tails, parts that would be more likely to be caught under the wheel of a car. It has been proposed that degloving is more likely to occur when a change in the tire force is applied to the area while the car is braking. This mainly occurs due to the moving forces being applied to the skin by the moving tire opposing those forces of the stationary forces of the ground, all the while having the limb stuck between the two.
An easy way to picture it is when you start to roll dough too thin with a rolling pin. The dough starts to tear away from the other dough when it can no longer adapt to the forces being applied to it by the pin and surface. Now think if there was no flour on the surface and how much more severe that would be on the dough.
Degloving injuries can cause severe damage to the limb, sometimes removing not only skin, but more vital tissue lower such as muscles and ligaments, exposing bones. These types of injuries are much more difficult to care for, as infection is more common and blood supply to the area is diminished. Blood supply to the area is the most important aspect of healing.
In Ziggy’s case, he was very fortunate to still maintain a very healthy blood supply and only require one surgery. In some more challenging cases, skin grafts and long second-intention (more complicated, skin-sealing) healing is required.
Banning Veterinary Hospital, 3559 W. Ramsey St., Suite E, Banning, CA 92220 banningvet.com 951-849-3864