In September 2010 when he was only 8 months old, “Patch,” a black and white Coton-de-Tulear, tangled with a car while his owners were visiting friends in Walla Walla, Washington. After a local veterinarian examined Patch and saw the extent of his injuries, she immediately referred Dan and Kathy Schwartz of Seattle, Washington, to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Luckily, the Schwartzes were able to fly from Walla Walla to Pullman, arriving just hours after Patch’s accident.
“With extensive trauma, the sooner we can start treatment the better,” said Dr. Sabrina Barry, WSU small animal surgery resident. “For small animals like Patch, the magnitude of the trauma is greater because of his size.”
When he arrived later that day, Emergency Services saw Patch first where they immediately took a radiograph (x-ray). The next morning he was given a CT (computed tomography) scan.
“His pelvis was crushed,” said Dr. John Mattoon, a board certified veterinary radiologist and chief of WSU’s diagnostic imaging section. “A CT scan is a better way to understand anomalies that may not be detected on a traditional radiograph [x-ray].”
Fortunately for Patch, the college received a new CT scanner in the spring of 2010, thanks to a very generous donation from Joseph T. Mendelson Sr. and his wife Barbara of Santa Barbara, California. “The 3-dimensional reconstructions make it truly state-of-the-art and improve our capabilities,” said Dr. Mattoon.
For Patch, those improved capabilities helped WSU radiologists to guide the surgeons as to exactly what procedures needed to be performed to save Patch’s life.
“The CT scan was important for making an accurate diagnosis,” said Dr. Barry. “From the radiograph alone we weren’t sure if he had a hernia or if the swelling and pain was just from the crushed pelvis.”
Looking at the CT scan Dr. Bonnie Campbell, WSU veterinary soft tissue surgeon, and Dr. Barry could see that his fractured pelvis had caused the abdominal wall to tear away from the pelvis, creating a hernia of his small intestines. After Dr. Campbell and Dr. Barry repaired the hernia, the orthopedic team—Dr. Steve Martinez, WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon and Dr. Russell Fugazzi, WSU small animal surgery resident—repaired his shattered pelvis.
“We were going to take care of his pelvic fractures first, but I got a call around 5 a.m. from the overnight doctor that the swelling had gotten larger and he seemed to be in more pain,” said Dr. Barry. “We were suspicious that there could be bowel strangulation, so we opted to do emergency surgery that morning. Fortunately, there was not strangulation.”
“We were so impressed how Dr. Barry explained all his injuries and how they were going to help him get better,” said Kathy Schwartz.
“The professional care of our gravely injured dog was superb,” added Dan Schwartz. “But it was their empathy and frequent communication with us that we found truly remarkable.”