Oh Deer!
Alessandra Pacelli, Dogs Monthly

Oh Deer!

Things end badly for a Lurcher when her instincts tell her to give chase.

On  a sunny December morning, Jane Ayre and her husband Josh decided to go for a run by their home in the New Forest along with their Lurcher, Roxy. But the enjoyable outing turned into a nightmare in a matter of minutes.

“We didn’t even see the deer until Roxy began chasing them”, Jane says. “They were completely hidden – I would have kept hold of her if I had seen them. I thought she had bolted after a squirrel. It was all so quick, I had no time to grab her”.

Even after Roxy disappeared from sight, Jane and Josh were not immediately worried. They had taken the young, athletic Lurcher to run by her home many times before and she never ran very far from them. They would call and she would turn up with a wagging tail and lolling tongue.

This time was different. When Jane spotted Roxy from a distance, she was staggering. Jane ran the 100 yards that separated them and the sight that greet her was horrific, despite her experience as a nurse. In the few minutes she’d been gone from their sigh, Roxy had injured herself horribly.

“It was as if Roxy’s legs had been torn to shreds. There was mud everywhere and you could see ever structure in her legs – tissue, bone, blood, muscles, sinews. She collapsed in the cold, muddy water”.

“I was besides myself, crying, almost hysterical, and screamed for my husband. Josh arrived immediately and he picked her up. We both ran – him to the road and me towards home to get the car. We knew she had to get to the vet’s immediately, even though right there and then I couldn’t imagine anything that could be done to help her’.

In Safe Hands

They wrapped Roxy in a blanket and drove to the Seadown Veterinary Practice in Hythe through heavy traffic. With little signal, it took half the trip before Jane could contact the vet and explain the situation.

“The car journey seemed to take forever”, Jane recalls. “When we reached Seadown, a lovely vet nurse scooped Roxy up and I just broke down. Kate McMorris, one of their wonderful vets and a directory, came out to say they would take care of her and I should go and get a coffee. I felt I needed a double brandy”.

Jane didn’t get a double brandy, but Josh certainly received a fair amount of odd looks when they walked into the coffee shop, as his clothes were covered in Roxy’s bloody.

“We sat pretty far away from anybody else as we waited for news”, Jane recalls with a laugh.

News came a few hours later, due to the extent of Roxy’s injuries and the time it took to clean them.

Kate Says, “I had been expecting a small barbed-wire cut that I could quickly staple, but when Roxy turned up, I realised that we were going to be dealing with something decidedly more complicated.”

“One of her legs was bleeding so badly that I just put a pressure bandage on, while I anaesthetised Roxy and took a look at her other leg. Examination and X-Rays showed the extent of the injury and I quickly emailed the X-rays to Jane, our orthopaedic vet. Taking the bandage off the second hock, I realised that this leg was just as badly injured, but Roxy was such a poppet right from the start and Mr and Mrs Ayre were such dedicated owners – we knew we had to try everything in our power to save this lovely dog and get her running free again”.

With Seadown orthopaedic vet Jane Oatley now involved, it was the beginning of four months of intensive veterinary care.

Jane says, “When I first saw Roxy, she had lost the majority of her skin on her legs and fractured both her ankles. The tissue and ligament damage were extensive, right down to the bones on both legs, and her wounds were massively contaminated.”

“My first task was to realign her bones and put her legs back in the correct position. One leg was fixed and protected with an external frame. We created a false ligament for the other leg, but there was no skin left to covert it”.

“Dressings had to be changed twice a day to remove any contamination, but the mere act of changing dressings also took off the healing tissue, so once tissue granulation had occurred, we used tilapia fish skins to help reduce the number of dressing changes. It’s worth saying that these skins were kindly couriered to us free of charge by Johnathon Anderson from the Rainbow Equine Hospital in Yorkshire, who had sourced them from UC Davis University. It’s a great example of the wider veterinary community coming together to help one another, and we were extremely grateful”.

A Day at a Time

Following the initial operation, a few more procedures were needed, including surgery to remove a toe that was too badly damaged to be saved. Therapy at an early stage helped speed up Roxy’s recovery.

“Jane and josh were amazing – we were always direct and honest in our appraisal of Roxy’s condition and they understood that it was a matter of taking each day as it came”, Jane adds, “Roxy too had a big part to play in her recovery process because she was a calm and amiable patient through.”

Long term, the prognosis is very good and Jane says she’s amazed at Roxy’s progress.

“She can walk independently, even if her right leg is still weaker than the other – only for a short distance before she needs to sit, but the vet says that it will get better. She adapted so well and they think she will eventually be able to run again. It’s amazing how far she’s come, given the extent of her injuries. She is an amazing dog”.

Jane and Josh adopted Roxy after her previous owner, Jane’s mother, had to go to a care home. Josh had never wanted a dog, but all it took was a day with her and he suddenly seemed far less keen on rehoming her. Soon enough, it was clear Roxy was there to stay.

“She is such a wonderful dog. Bouncy and affectionate. She absolutely won him over. We both adore her.”

As for what caused her dreadful injuries, it may never be known for sure, but the vets have a theory.

“They think she fell into a hole while chasing and possibly broke her ankles at that point. Then she tried to jump over a fence, but with her ankles broken she got caught on the wire. She heard me calling, thrashed to break free, and that is how she became injured. It’s the most likely explanation for all that awful damage to her legs.”

Coffee shop conundrum

Catherine Boeree, Seadown vet and surgeon, adds,

“It’s understandably been a long road, but it’s had an excellent outcome. Everyone at Seadown is so delighted that Roxy has done so well and will go on to lead a good quality of life. I feel the lesson here is that the body is capable of incredible feats of healing given a chance – providing, of course, that one feels treatment is in the patient’s best interest.”

The harrowing experience has left Jane extremely grateful to all the staff that treated Roxy and helped them through her journey.

“I will never thank the staff of Seadown enough”, she says. “They never once suggested we put Roxy to sleep and gave her the best care possible. We were immensely lucky that Kate McMorris was there that day – I think a less experienced vet may have been overwhelmed by the extent of her injuries”.

Roxy still has some way to go and they still visit the vet surgery, although they try to keep the visits to a minimum. And in case you’re wondering, no they did not return to that coffee shop to explain the bloody on Josh’s clothes. The patrons and staff are probably still trying to guess what in the world happened!

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