5 Unusual Cases in The Pet ER

Posted March 11, 2019 @ 12:30pm | by James Newton, DVM

We see lots of different types of cases in the ER, and while many are similar, no two are exactly the same! Below are five more unusual cases that we see in the emergency room. 

Attacked by Raptor

Birds of prey are common across the world, and every so often, their natural behavior sends pets to the ER! When I worked in Arizona, a client brought in her Bichon Frise puppy. The puppy was very happy and seemed fine, but she had multiple puncture wounds across her back! The client said that she found her dog about 50 yards beyond her fenced-in yard. Given the multiple punctures on her back and the dog’s odd location, we figured that a raptor grabbed the poor little puppy in an attempt to bring it back to its nest! Luckily, the pup fought off the raptor, and with some supportive care and a night in the ER, she recovered at home with no lasting complications. 

Owl Hit by Car

When nature and modern city come together, the outcome can be unhappy! One such time, a good Samaritan found an injured Great Horned Owl next to a highway off-ramp. He bravely picked up the owl and brought it to us for care. The owl had likely been hit by a car, and it had a traumatic brain injury. We were able to stabilize the unlucky raptor and transfer it to the Raptor Center. While I applaud the good Sam’s efforts, I also must emphasize that handling an adult raptor is not advisable as they can do a lot of damage to humans with their beak and talons! If you think any wild or domestic animal needs help, please call Animal Control, the police or your veterinarian for guidance and/or assistance.  

“Back Dog” with High Fever

Sometimes, what at first glance appears to be commonplace can surprise you! A dachshund named Philip came in to see me because his back was painful and he suddenly lost use of his rear legs. In the ER, a dog with Philip’s symptoms would be called a “back dog.” Back problems are not uncommon in dachshunds, but Philip’s blood work revealed a very high white blood cell count as well as a fever over 105 degrees – not common in back dogs at all. The material compressing Philip’s spinal cord was removed and sent off for review. Philip had a fungal infection called Valley Fever! While Valley Fever is not rare in Arizona, it is rare for it to go the spinal cord! Despite all appearances, Philip wasn’t your standard back dog at all!

The Shaking, Garbage-Eating Dog

At least a couple times a year, I see a dog with shaking or seizures, a high temperature, and a lot of drooling. Usually, the dog got into old moldy trash or compost, which puts a tremorgenic mycotoxin on the top of the list of possibilities. Tremorgenic mycotoxins cause muscle tremors or seizures and are made by mold/fungi that typically grow on old food (e.g. nuts, dairy, grains and pasta). Treatment with IV fluids and tremor/seizure control medications may take many hours to several days and can require gastric lavage (i.e. pumping the stomach). Prognosis is good with early and aggressive treatment, though!

Atypical Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is a disease that happens when the adrenal glands fail to make adequate amounts of stress and electrolyte-regulating hormones. The atypical form of the disease, however, happens when only stress hormone production is affected while the electrolyte hormones are fine. Atypical Addison’s can also have a very wide range of signs that mimic other diseases. Presenting complaints to the ER can range from vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy to lameness and weakness. To make an accurate diagnosis of Atypical Addison’s disease, it can take an experienced veterinarian with a clinical suspicion. Happily, with treatment, dogs with any form of Addison’s have a great long-term prognosis!

We hope you’ve learned something new about the kinds of things we see in the ER! If your pet gets into trouble – usual or unusual – be sure to contact your family veterinarian! If your family veterinarian is unavailable, both our Oakdale and St. Paul clinics are open 24/7 for emergencies. 


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