Thanks to the expertise of veterinarians at the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), a nine-month-old pit bull named Hugo is happy and healthy in his Long Island home after being struck by a van in April.
When the back door to Sara L.’s family’s house opened one afternoon, Hugo darted out the door and into the street. He was immediately struck, which smashed his left hind leg into the asphalt as the driver screeched to a halt. Seconds later, Hugo leapt up and fled back toward the house, bleeding and yelping. Sara and her mother, Gloria, rushed Hugo to a local veterinary clinic, which referred them to AAH. An advanced veterinary procedure conducted there can be credited for Hugo’s subsequent recovery.
First, ASPCA veterinarians examined Hugo and took X-rays. “The bones and tendons inside his left ankle joint were just gone,” recalled Dr. J’Mai Gayle, Director of Surgery, who also noted that Hugo’s right hind leg had severe skin wounds.
“We considered amputating his left leg but hesitated because of the severity of the right hind leg wounds,” Dr. Gayle continued. “We wanted Hugo to eventually have four legs to walk on.” She determined that an external fixator—an apparatus that stabilizes the joint while allowing daily wound care—was the best option for Hugo.
Doctors then began the three-hour surgery by removing contaminated tissue and cartilage from the dog’s injured joint. Then they applied the external fixator by placing pins through the bones surrounding the joint and connecting the pins to external bars to prevent movement. Although the end result looked like metal scaffolding over Hugo’s leg, it provided necessary stability for the soft tissue to heal while new, solid bone grew across the joint.
Since the fixator’s bolts pierced Hugo’s skin, it was crucial for him to receive regular cleaning and bandage changes to prevent infection. His family made frequent trips from their Long Island home to AAH, where Hugo, with his loving looks and indefatigable nature, soon became a staff favorite.
“I know his bandage changes were often somewhat uncomfortable, but Hugo was always a good boy, giving us wags and licks,” said Jennifer Doyle, Senior Veterinary Technician. “His exuberant personality is infectious.”
“He was always such a happy boy,” said Senior Vet Tech Michaelene Albert. “It’s obvious in the huge smile Hugo has for us every time he comes in.”
The family managed to keep Hugo’s E-collar on most of the time, although Hugo made several successful attempts to remove it. They used a crate to help keep him still—Sara’s Seven-year-old brother, David would crawl in with him to keep him company—and rewarded Hugo with his favorite treats. Sara notes that Hugo now has his own bed in the living room, and “is very happy.”
Keeping Hugo safely in his home was always as much a priority as keeping him alive, explained Dr. Gayle. “This was a very rewarding case for many reasons, but being able to save Hugo and keep him with his family was the best part,” she said.
On a recent Sunday evening, New Yorker Oscar Q. was watching his three dogs play when he noticed something unusual about his five-year-old Shih Tzu, Buddy: The dog’s left eye was dangling from its socket.
Oscar immediately took Buddy to the Animal Medical Center, who referred him to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) the following day. At AAH, Buddy was assessed by Drs. Kristen Frank and Anna Podgorska, and on Tuesday, Dr. Maren Krafchik removed his eye.
Displacement of the eyeball out of the eye socket is a condition known as proptosis, and it often occurs after fighting with a larger dog or following trauma to the face or head.
“I wanted to save his eye, but as long as he’s alive, that’s what's more important to me,” said Oscar, adding that Buddy often plays with other dogs, but such a thing had never happened to him before.
Eye proptosis is not unusual in brachycephalic dog breeds—those with bulging eyes, short snouts and shallow eye sockets—like Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Pugs, Lhasa Apsos and Boston Terriers. For these breeds, even mild restraint or play can result in eye proptosis. Dog breeds with long noses and deep-set eyes are less likely to experience proptosis.
Because proptosis occurs most commonly after trauma, there are no real preventative measures pet owners can take. “Owners of brachycephalic breeds should be aware that their pet is predisposed to this condition and seek medical attention immediately in the event of proptos,” said Dr. Frank. “In certain cases, [eye removal] can be avoided with prompt medical and surgical intervention by a veterinarian.”
As of August 31, 35 eye removal surgeries have been performed at AAH this year for a variety of reasons, including infections and deformities of the eye, diseases of the eye, and trauma like Buddy’s.
On the bright side, eye removal is usually tolerated well by dogs and cats, and Oscar says Buddy is recovering well. “We treat our dogs like kids,” he said. “And Buddy is adored by everyone.”
Toby, an eight-year-old male tabby, had never had any medical issues until he suddenly became blocked, or unable to urinate, one day last month.
“He was going to his litter box constantly,” said Carlos B. of the Bronx, who adopted Toby as a kitten. “Back and forth, back and forth—and his personality seemed to change.”
So Carlos and his girlfriend, Julie, brought Toby to the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH), where he was diagnosed with Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS), or urinary blockage, by Dr. Maren Krafchik.
Most cats affected by FUS are in the one- to eight-year range, like Toby. Common symptoms include:
Straining to urinate
Frequent small urinations
Blood in the urine
Inappropriate urination (somewhere other than the litter box)
Straining without urination (urinary obstruction)
Crying, restlessness, or hiding because of discomfort
Loss of appetite
“Urinary blockage is a life-threatening emergency,” says Dr. Krafchik. “Potassium levels (as well as kidney toxins) rise in the bloodstream and can cause death in a cat.”
A urinary catheter was placed to unblock Toby’s urethra and allow urine to drain from Toby’s bladder, and he received intravenous fluids and pain medication. The urinary catheter was removed a few days later, and Toby was sent home. Unfortunately, this condition can reoccur, and Toby returned to the Hospital three weeks later with another urinary obstruction. “He went back to his old symptoms,” Carlos said.
Given Toby’s history of chronic straining and urinary problems, ASPCA veterinarians recommended a Perineal Urethrostomy (PU). This is a surgical procedure in which the external penis/urethral tissue is incised and sutured open in order to permanently widen the urethral opening. This surgery, commonly performed at AAH, helps decrease the chance of future bladder obstruction.
“Male cats are susceptible to developing obstructions of the urethra because their urethral diameter is so small,” says Dr. Krafchik.
As of earlier this month, AAH has performed catheterization procedures for urinary blockage on 163 cats, and 37 PU surgeries—an average of almost one procedure per day in 2015.
“Many people think their pets are misbehaving by urinating outside of the litter box,” says Dr. Krafchik. “The reality is that there can be an underlying reason for the behavior such as bladder inflammation, crystals, stones, or less likely, infection.”
Carlos reports that since Toby’s PU procedure, he is back to his old self. “He is really happy, very friendly, and playful, which we missed so much,” Carlos says. “He's eating and his bodily functions are back to normal.”
Although we treat victims of cruelty nearly every single day, Bea’s story is particularly heartbreaking. After being rescued by the NYPD in January, the two-year-old pit bull arrived at the ASPCA with a horrific head wound. She was extremely shy and very nervous around people, and it was apparent that she had suffered grave abuse. We vowed to find Bea a loving home where she could forget her previous pain, and fortunately, it wasn’t long before we did just that. Here is Bea’s Happy Tail.
When Bea arrived at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, she had a large, bloody gash on the top of her head. It was a suspected stab wound. She received immediate treatment, including multiple stitches, and spent over a month recovering in the Hospital. By early March, she was ready to begin her search for a forever home, but it was clear that her emotional wounds ran much deeper than the physical wound on her head.
During Bea’s Behavioral evaluation, we saw first-hand how the sweet dog had been impacted by the abuse she suffered. Bea was incredibly shy, nervous and fearful; she needed encouragement just to walk past things that frightened her. But despite her timidity, Bea was sweet and affectionate with people she knew. Once someone earned her trust, she would gladly jump into their lap and relish their attention. We knew she just needed patient adopters who would take the time to make her comfortable, and fortunately it wasn’t long before we met Molly and Daniel.
Although Molly and Daniel dreamed of adopting a dog for nearly five years, the couple was juggling multiple jobs and full-time graduate school, which made it difficult to think about bringing a pup into the mix. But Molly says, “All that changed when we met Bea. We fell in love with her and just knew we would figure out a way to make it work.”
On their first-ever visit to the ASPCA Adoption Center, Molly and Daniel were drawn to Bea (or “Beezus,” as they call her) and wanted to meet her. “She was really shy at first,” Molly recalls, “But I could just sense that she was special.” We filled them in on Bea’s story and worked out a course of action: To avoid putting stress on Bea, the couple decided to spend a week visiting her at the Adoption Center to build trust and a connection.
“Beezus was the happiest dog with a great personality,” says Molly, “but she was really shy at first and it took a number of visits before she would even come over to us.” Fortunately, their patience paid off—after a week of visits, Bea had fallen for them just as much as they had fallen for her. “I had a feeling that once we showed her love, her trust in humans would rebuild—and we were right!” Molly says. On March 27, they officially adopted Beezus and brought her to her new home in Brooklyn, New York.
In an update a few months later, Molly was proud to report that Beezus loves her new life. “She settled in better than we ever could have imagined. She is right at home here.” The couple was also happy to learn that Beezus is exceptionally well-trained, which Molly calls “an unexpected gift.” She says that Beezus loves all of her neighbors, loves riding in the elevator and loves playing with the little dogs in the neighborhood. “She also adores tennis balls, her Monkees blanket and endless cuddling.”
It take a special kind of adopter to see beyond an animal’s pain to their true potential, and Molly and Daniel could not have been a more perfect fit for sweet Bea. Molly says, “Some dogs love everyone they meet, which is great, but with Beezus, you have to earn the love and it makes it that much more special.” We know that Molly and Daniel earned Bea’s love, and we are so grateful that this precious pup has finally found the home of her dreams.
Janet, Chrissy and Jack were rescued by the NYPD in early May. The three Shih Tzus were malnourished and their coats were so matted that their vision was impaired. They were rushed to the ASPCA Animal Hospital where our expert staff provided medical care, grooming and a gradual feeding schedule to help the dogs gain weight safely. While this trio is making good progress, it is still too early to discuss their availability for adoption.
“We often care for victims of extreme matting—the impacts of which go far beyond the cosmetic,” says Howard Lawrence, Senior Director of the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Group. “Severe matting can lead to skin infections, decreased mobility and even cut off circulation to the point of limb amputation. We’re thankful that in the course of a narcotics arrest the NYPD investigators were able to recognize animals in need and bring them to the ASPCA for care.”
We are optimistic that Janet, Chrissy and Jack will continue to improve under our care.
“This case exemplifies why the partnership is so important for this city’s most vulnerable animals, and we thank the Special Narcotics Prosecutor's Office for seeking justice in this case,” says Lawrence.