Jess was just two years old, but already I knew her very well. She was not an ill dog – far from it! The effervescent, young springer spaniel was the picture of health, but she was very accident-prone. Beneath her cute and innocent exterior was a dog who acted first and thought later. Except that more often than not, she didn’t think at all.
Her clinical notes told of a series of over-exuberance related injuries and ailments. Thankfully, they were mostly relatively minor. There was conjunctivitis brought on by diving into some bushes, a sore nose as a result of sticking it repeatedly down a hole, a bout of diarrhoea triggered by swallowing a whole rotten rabbit carcass and a case of tracheitis caused by eating a pile of grass one morning. She was a regular visitor.
Even the relatively simple process of spaying her and removing her extraneous hind dew claws caused more difficulties than was usual, as Jess was determined to remove her bandages, resulting in multiple re-dressings and a re-stitch.
Her latest problem was her tail. As you can imagine, Jess’s tail was rarely still. Its constant and furious wagging, as she bounded through a field in search of adventure, had led to some nasty sores, from the rough stems of long grass and bracken. Jess had then set about licking and chewing the sore places, as only she knew how, and in no time at all, the end of her tail was one big oozing wound, which was both painful and messy. The white parts of her fur were stained a rather delicate shade of strawberry pink.
As I peered at the angry lesions, it was clear there was only one course of action that would solve the problem.
“It’ll have to be amputated, I’m afraid,” I explained. There was no need to dance around the subject. Tail injuries, especially in dogs like Jess, are extremely difficult to deal with using the simple means by which most wounds can be treated. Constant wagging, knocking and chewing results in a sore that never heals. Removing the diseased end is often the best course of action to take. Jess’s owner, Mrs Smith, agreed. She was relieved that there was a solution.
Two days later, the op had been done and Jess was back in action at home, her slightly shorter tail neatly bandaged. Everything went smoothly for the next few days and Mrs Smith even became skilled in replacing the dressing. However, when I saw Jess for her next check-up, Mrs Smith told an unusual tale.
“Well, Julian. I thought I’d got quite good at re-bandaging the tail – the first one I tried fell off, but the second was OK and the third, well, I thought ‘this is a beauty – it’s never going to come off’. I’d put extra tape on. Anyway, later that evening, as I took her out for a final walk I noticed that she was straining a bit. I thought to myself ‘Oh no! Not a bout of colitis, that’s the last thing we need’.
She came back into the house and then I thought, ‘what’s that strange smell?’ and then I realised, I’d bandaged the tail but also her bum! I was mortified! She was trying to go to the toilet but couldn’t because my bandage had gone all the way round her bottom! I felt awful and I cut it off immediately. I hope there’s no lasting damage!”
I removed the bandage, carefully and examined the tail end – it was healing well. I also inspected the bottom. Thankfully for all concerned, it was fine.
Julian’s latest book, A Yorkshire Vet Through the Seasons, published by Michael O’Mara, is available now for £14.99.