5 case reports
Things aren’t always as they seem
Case 1: A sigh of relief
Presenting complaint: An owner found his outdoor cat suddenly acting bizarrely — vocalizing, drooling, unable to lift her head, walking strangely, preferring not to move and not grooming, eating, or drinking for at least a day. All of these symptoms combined warranted an emergency visit, and raised great concern over a possible case of rabies!
Physical examination: The cat was distressed and disheveled with her head positioned at an odd angle. She was drooling and growling and acted panicky whenever anyone tried to touch her or reposition her head. Her long-haired coat was a mess from lack of grooming.
Diagnosis: Careful parsing of the hair around her face and neck revealed that she had somehow managed to get her collar caught in her mouth, hooking her lower jaw, and making it impossible to not only close her mouth, but lift her head.
Treatment: After employing a sharp pair of bandage scissors to cut off the collar, treatment was complete. There was a collective sigh of relief from everyone involved, including the cat.
Prognosis: Excellent — the patient was cured.
Plan: Grooming help, microchip and skip the collar.
Case 2: With a cherry on the side
Presenting complaint: A fluffy, little dog came to see us with a suddenly very painful, hard lump on his neck that had not been there more than a day. The owner was worried the lump had burst open, as it had a sticky, red discharge. The mass had an elongated, strange shape. The dog would not let his owners touch the lump. The dog had been trying to lick the mass, but could not reach. He tried to dig at it with a back foot, but with each attempt, he cried out in pain.
Physical examination: An area of matted fur on the side of the dog’s neck was found, which was painful to the touch, and had a sticky, red residue on the surface of the affected skin that … smelled like cherries. Gentle clipping and cleaning of the affected area of skin revealed the cause of the lesion.
Diagnosis: Lollipop — cherry flavored.
Treatment: Complete excision of lollipop and associated matted hair, using only electric clippers, patience, sweet talking (pun intended) and cleansing of the underlying skin. No actual surgery required.
Prognosis: Excellent, cured.
Plan: Avoidance of lollipops.
Case 3: Tick tock, BOOM
Presenting complaint: Owners brought their rottweiler in for a visit with a technician to help them remove a bothersome tick from the dog’s shoulder. They had been trying to remove it with needle nose pliers, with no success, and the dog was becoming … annoyed.
Physical examination: Proved difficult, after what the dog had been through at home with the pliers. It was definitely NOT A TICK.
Diagnosis: It was a tumor — a dark brown, leathery, hairless skin tag, now swollen and painful, thanks to the pliers.
Treatment: Medication for pain and inflammation, followed by proper surgical excision of the mass.
Prognosis: Excellent — the mass was benign and completely removed.
Note: Ticks have legs, and come off easily with tweezers. As a general rule, one should seek their veterinarian’s advice before employing pliers for the treatment of their pets.
Additional (abridged) case reports with expedient and excellent outcomes:
Case of 4: Insectasaurus
Presenting complaint: Kitten with a new, red, swollen tumor on the skin with an open, weepy center.
Diagnosis: Cuterebra fly larva (AKA “worble”) incubating under the skin.
Treatment: CAREFUL removal of the larva, and flushing of the skin wound.
Prognosis: Excellent — cured.
Case 5: Stuck up
Presenting complaint: An owner rushed in with his Labrador retriever, choking after playing in the yard.
Physical examination: The dog wasn’t choking, but continually licking, salivating and shaking his head.
Diagnosis: A stick wedged between the upper teeth in the roof of the mouth.
Treatment: Digital removal of the stick. The doctor used her fingers to unstick the stuck stick.
Cases like these can cause some owners to feel embarrassed or annoyed that their visit to the veterinarian was unnecessary — some even apologize for somehow wasting our time. Although the solutions to each of these problems seemed comically simple, all of the owners in these cases really did need our help, and their decision to bring their animals in right away saved time and needless discomfort. Veterinarians and their staff must often deliver sad news and assist owners in making gut-wrenching decisions — it always feels like a triumph when we can solve a mystery and relieve angst and suffering in one go, and effect a cure.
Remember: People who are good at what they do and enjoy doing it always make it seem easy. Isn’t that what makes the visit worthwhile?
— Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.