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15-Year-Old Pomeranian Surgery Success

April 15, 2012

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Ari the Pomeranian looks dully to his side before surgery. He does not feel well.

The dull look of abdominal pain.

Ancient Pomeranian Suddenly Mortally Ill

The morals of this story are: never count an old dog out.  And never assume a dog won’t eat something he shouldn’t.  Here’s how a miracle came to pass.

Two grave-faced, worried Pomeranian parents walked slowly into Doc Truli’s examination room cradling a 15-year-old red fluffy Pomeranian named Ari.  Doc knew Ari.  He moved funny, with straight back legs and knees that didn’t really bend anymore when he walked.  Ari came to the office once a month for injections of medication to help his arthritis. His cataracts nearly blinded him, but he could still see shapes and shadows, although his night vision seemed pretty much gone.  His teeth were a mess, but the major dental surgery Doc Truli performed when he was 14 years old helped him eat and stop dropping food from the sides of his mouth.  In fact, Ari was doing very well up until this minute.

“…frightened, opinionated, spoiled Pomeranian…”

Let me add: in spite of Doc making Ari’s life 1,000% better by treating his teeth and helping his arthritis, the little Pomeranian hated coming to the animal hospital.  He hated Doc Truli with a spite only a frightened, opinionated, spoiled Pomeranian can muster.  Doc, of course, adored the little biter.

“Doc, I’m afraid this is it,” said Ari’s mom, Karen.  “He won’t eat, he can’t walk, he’s out-of-it.  I think he had a stroke.  I don’t want him to suffer.”  A tear welled up from the corner of Shelly’s right eye. Doc Truli was very worried.

You see– Karen is every bit as tough as her dog.  She runs a large mechanical department for a large complex of professional buildings.  Over 30 people depend on her for work and instructions.  She seems practically born with a tool belt and a calculator.  Equal parts task mistress and auditor, this very, very capable woman solves problems all day, every day.  Karen spends her few days off kayaking and tubing on the river, drinking beer, and fishing with her partner.  Little Ari wears an orange life jacket and she throws him in to swim with the manatees.  Basically, Doc never saw this woman flustered, and never imagined she would give up.  If Karen said Ari was done for, maybe it was his time to go.

But you must understand, Doc Truli is more stubborn than most people.

“Let’s perform a thorough physical and go from there,” said Doc Truli.

A Puppy Problem for a Senior Dog

Ari’s physical exam is always tough.  He bites.  He screams.  He kicks.  He clenches his abdominal muscles.  Generally, he makes it hard to tell what’s going on even when he’s in a good mood.

The day of the emergency, he laid on his back in Karen’s arms and allowed Doc to feel him all over.  His gums were dry, like dehydration.  His belly was hollow, like starvation. His ribs stuck out, like internal organ problems.  Doc Truli suspected something wrong in his abdomen because he was not eating, and the pain seemed to be in the belly.

 If the tests are okay and your dog has abdominal pain, maybe something inside changed quickly.

“Let’s do some blood tests and abdominal x-rays,” said Doc Truli.

Neither the blood work, nor the x-rays showed too much wrong.  This is suspicious.  If the tests are okay and your dog has abdominal pain, maybe something inside changed quickly.  Like maybe he or she ate something they should not have.

“Karen, does Ari eat things he should not?  Like chew on things?”

“No, he’s 15 years old and he never has, but I don’t trust him,” she said.

So we fed him barium.  It stopped in his stomach and went no further.

Tru Tip

Barium is a white liquid metal.  Ours comes in strawberry flavor.  So it tastes like strawberry and metal.  When you drink it, it coats and fills the stomach and when you snap an x-ray, you can see exactly where it is.  If it doesn’t move right in the intestines, a doctor can figure out where an obstruction is.

Ari needed stomach surgery.

Contemplating Stomach Surgery on a 15-Year-Old Dog

“Really?” Karen sounded doubtful.  “Don’t puppies usually have this problem? And do you think he can survive the surgery?”

“Well,” said Doc Truli,” he’s not surviving without surgery, so let’s give it a try.”

Doc Truli laid the small intestine of a pomeranian on a sterile blue impervious paper drape and inspected for signs of obstruction including redness, a firm swelling, and lack of peristalsis. She found all three and a foreign piece of toy in the ileum.

The small intestine of a small dog.

We took Ari directly to surgery.  As soon as Doc Truli felt the pylorus – the muscular ring at the end of the stomach that acts as a valve to let food pass through into the small intestine – she felt something wrong.  The pylorus felt thick and stiff like a foreign object was in there or a cancer or scar tissue had made it too hard.

Doc Truli made an opening into the stomach and found a plastic hard ring stuck in the pylorus.  The ring successfully removed, she sutured the stomach shut again before stomach acid could leak into the abdomen.

But we weren’t done there!  A good surgeon always “runs the bowels.”  This means feeling 15-odd feet (7 m) of bowel to look for other objects, injuries, cancer, etc.  It would be terrible to miss a problem since we could fix it right there during surgery!

On the left, we have a 1 inch (2 centimeter) firm plastic ring which was stuck in the pyloric valve (the outflow valve of the stomach). To the right, we have a clump of plastic and fabric fibers, which was stuck in the ileum (small intestine).

The plastic and the fabric: a deadly combination

Sure enough, in the ileum (the last part of the small intestine before the colon) a clump of plastic and fabric fibers blocked the intestine.  (In the picture (above), it is the smooth spot on the right.  See how smooth it is compared to the normal folds of the small intestine on the left?) A second incision into the intestine this time removed the second object.

Doc Truli sewed Ari up and he made a full recovery from surgery and anesthesia.

Do Not Give Up on an Old Dog

Ari teaches us to never give up.  Just because he had arthritis and cataracts and a bad attitude does not mean his abdominal problem was cancer.  It would be pessimistic to believe he was going to die.  A careful investigation and proper testing revealed an ordinary problem.  Granted, usually puppies and young dogs are stupid enough to eat plastic, but even an old dog can get carried away sometimes!

If we had assumed he was old and had a stroke then he would have died that day in the name of compassion. That would have been a shame.  Instead, we all get to see Ari eat his first meal after surgery (from Doc Truli’s hand!) and enjoy the next morning’s sunshine!

It warms my heart to see a patient eating the day after intestinal surgery!

Ari eats after surgery!

This 15 year-old Pimeranian stands like a show dog at Westminster with his hind legs stretched back and his head up the morning after major surgery. It was so beautiful to see him enjoying the morning sunshine when I wasn't sure if he would even be alive.

Ari the Pomeranian enjoys a walk in the sun the day after surgery.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Meesh permalink
    August 24, 2016 12:55 pm

    My 13 year old dog is going through the is now. She was supposed to come home today but just took a turn for the worst. This story was a sweet reminder that maybe things will be ok.

  2. June 18, 2012 10:48 pm

    It’s nice to know he is doing better now.

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