A stitch in time

Recently, Annelise and I have found ourselves on the other side of the consulting room table and it has proved quite an enlightening experience! Our German Shorthaired Pointer, “Scout”, who is quite often at the centre of most of the controversy in our house was once again the instigator of the situation…

Scout developed a recurrent lameness of her left fore-leg and was painful on examination of her elbow. We decided to take some x-rays to assess things further and as is commonplace when anaesthetising a middle-aged dog, we took the opportunity to remove a lump on her behind and give her teeth a good clean. It’s certainly a bit of a reality check seeing your own dog on the operating table and it’s a healthy reminder of how and why we get so anxious when dropping our pets off for a procedure.

Fortunately, all went well with the procedure and the x-rays were normal - however, that’s when the trouble started! We made the cardinal mistake of not reading the discharge instructions which had been painstakingly written out by one of our dedicated nursing staff. We assumed that Scout would be a model patient and not pay any attention at all to the wound where the lump was removed! Clearly that was not the case and she duly took the opportunity to have a good old lick at it. By the time we had applied a “collar of shame”, it was too late and the wound had already opened. Some skin staples were applied to no avail – Scout’s natural bounciness contrived to pull the wound edges apart and there was nothing to be done but book her in for the “re-stitch of disgrace”.

As the perpetrator of the initial operation, it was down to Annelise to rescue the situation. She went for the “belt and braces approach” with no less than 3 layers of stitching. Alas, a few days later and despite a course of antibiotics, there was further wound breakdown. I’m sure that this had nothing to do with the fact that Scout was seen at least 3 times out of the garden, chasing rabbits and everything to do with a poor healing environment for the wound… What followed was 3 weeks, 4 “buster” collars, several broken ornaments and countless bruises on lower legs while the wound closed up naturally. As with most patients, Scout quickly became resigned to her “buster” collar and tolerated it very well. As with most pet owners, we never became accustomed to the “buster” collar and were regularly considering its removal for our own sanity, even when Scout wasn’t particularly bothered!

The whole experience certainly put things in perspective and since then, I make a special effort to see things from the perspective of the person to whom I am preaching not just the practitioner! Despite all that, it is worth taking note of the fact that while many of the post operative instructions we give out may seem tedious, they are there for good reason. Adhering to them may just help avoid some of the shenanigans above!