The Only Locally-Owned Emergency and Specialty Hospital in Minnesota

Fur-Tunately: Stories of Animal Survival | Episode XV: Dean Martin the King of the [Specialty] Road

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Meet Dean Martin – no, not that Dean Martin. This Dean Martin is one cool cat, but he’s literally a cat! In fact, he’s a Maine Coon, but because of his famous namesake, he’s known to his friends as “Dino, the Maine Crooner! Dino owns Dr. Thell, one of our emergency veterinarians, and Zach, one of our emergency technicians. When he was just a baby, Dino started experiencing one medical issue after another after another…and well, let’s just say he quickly became the King of the [Specialty] Road here at AERC. Memories are made of this spunky cat’s journey through six (yes, six!) of our specialty services. Keep reading to learn how these teams collaborated to give Dino a million in one chance. 

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The Emergency 

When diarrhea hits your body like it did to 8-week-old Dino, that’s not amoré, that’s an emergency! Paired with poor appetite and low blood sugar, Dino was in critical condition and had to stay with our Emergency Medicine & Critical Care Service for five days!   

In hopes of finding a diagnosis, Dino visited our Imaging Service for an abdominal ultrasound for possible congenital abnormalities. Instead, Dr. Nevins, one of our radiologists, discovered an intussusception – which is when the intestines telescope on themselves, causing an obstruction. Pressure then prevents blood flow to that area of the intestine. Without emergency surgery, intussusception can lead to a hole developing through the intestine, and as a result, abdominal infection.  

Dino’s parents quickly approved Dino to go to Surgery. He was only one pound when Dr. Anderson, one of our board-certified surgeons, performed the life-saving operation. Due to his size and condition, Dino required and received a blood transfusion via our internal blood bank. All in a night’s work 

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The Road Gets Longer 

We wish surgery was the swan song that signaled the end of Dino’s specialty tour, but alas, Dino did return to me (well, AERC) one month later. He had abruptly developed a head tilt, impaired coordination, and mild circling. Dino is lucky to have two veterinary professionals as parents, because they quickly recognized these neurologic signs and brought him in for an exam. 

Dino’s screening lab work was all normal which meant the problem was most likely an inner ear or brain condition. So Dean needed to visit our Neurology Service for a MRI, but there was another bump in the road to sort out first. 

While hospitalized, a heart murmur, or an abnormal heartbeat, was detected. A murmur in cats might be inconsequential, but it might also mean that anesthesia (necessary for an MRI) could be dangerous for Dino. So, Dino had to sway on over to our Cardiology Service. To ensure Dino’s heart was healthy enough to undergo anesthesia for the MRI, he needed an echocardiogram, or an ultrasound of the heart. Dr. George, one of our cardiologists, discovered changes in Dino’s heart. These changes may have been related to early heart disease or may have been caused by the aggressive intravenous (IV) fluid therapy he received during his hospitalization. With no major problems though, Dr. George approved Dino for the necessary anesthesia.  

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At last, Dino went to our Neurology Service. On the MRI, Dr. Carpentier, one of our neurologists, discovered a middle and internal ear infection. A spinal tap showed that the infection extended into his brain! Ain’t that a kick in the head! 

Given the diagnosis of an ear infection, Dino visited our Dermatology Service. Dr. Meyer, our board-certified dermatologist, utilized a tool called a video otoscopy to closely examine Dino’s ear. She then performed a myringotomy (purposeful rupture of the eardrum) to drain fluid trapped in the middle ear. Lastly, Dino’s ear was flushed with sterile saline to remove any debris behind the ear drum. 

Since outwardly, Dino’s ears showed no sign of infection, Dr. Meyer suspected that bacteria tracked up his Eustachian tubes – which connect the back of the nose and upper throat to the middle ear. After several months of steroids and antibiotics, Dino recovered with only a slight head tilt – which has the charming impression of making him look very interested in anything said to him! 

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Update 

During a recheck appointment with Cardiology, the heart changes were determined to be persistent and consistent with congenital heart disease – unfortunately common in Maine Coon cats like Dino. However, Dino is an active cat who races around daily. He has no symptoms of heart disease (i.e., coughing, labored or rapid breathing, weakness, lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss, fainting, collapse, or swollen abdomen.) For now, no treatment is necessary, but Dino will need regular check-ups with the Cardiology team.  

We’re happy to share that Dino celebrated his first birthday in December of 2022! His brother, Frank Sinatra, a fine blue-eyed cat, and his other brother, Willy Nelson, a Shiba Inu cross, were excited to partake in the delicious festivities with pet-friendly treats. His parents, Dr. Thell and Certified Veterinary Technician Zach, even put together a little photo shoot to acknowledge everything Dino has been through in his first year of life. And of course, his family at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, celebrated, too! After all, everybody loves somebody, and our team certainly loves this cat! Now that’s amore! 

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Our “Fur-tunately: Stories of Animal Survival” series features real pets treated by our team at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. All images and information have been shared with the owner’s permission.      

 Case content provided by Ally Thell, DVM, cHPV (and Dean Martin’s mama).  

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