The following is a true story. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent, as well as the less-than-innocent.
I saw a dog for a wound on his leg. He was an elderly, large breed dog and had significant arthritis issues. He had lots of difficulty standing up and was unsteady in his movements once standing. His muscles over his hips and in his rear legs were shriveled from years of lessening use. This only added to his arthritis pain because the muscles are the main stabilizers of the joints.
One of the most frustrating aspects of arthritis is it makes movement painful, so less use of the area occurs and muscles waste away. This leads to increasing instability in the joint and more pain. The problem spirals on itself.
The wound was what’s called a decubital ulcer, or pressure sore, similar to what you might think of a bed sore on a person. The skin becomes weaker, and the scrubbing motion associated with trying to move in a limited capacity ends up wearing a hole in the tissue. Infection is very common and healing is problematic.
I surgically removed the dead tissue, closed the wound and applied a bandage. The owners took the dog home and were instructed to bring him back in 48 hours for a bandage change and recheck.
Two days later, they called and said their neighbor, who was a nurse, was caring for the wound and said it looked fine.
Two weeks later, the dog came in. The wound had reopened and the surrounding tissue been lost to infection. The dog was euthanized.
Veterinarians experience this all the time. Some clients seem to think any level of medical training equates to a doctor of veterinary medicine.
Yes, it’s insulting, but it’s false, too. And I beg you, if you ever feel that way, ask yourself if you had surgery and the site looked questionable, would you go to a vet?
Then why do it the other way around?
Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.