Bravery Award June 2023

by | Jul 5, 2023

In a remarkable display of resilience, Bucky the Koolie is in recovery after battling a severe case of Tetanus.

We first met Bucky, the 6 year old Australian Koolie when he tore his nail digging in the garden a few weeks ago.  About a week later, he was brought to our Berwick clinic with different symptoms that immediately raised concerns. His swollen eyes and cross-eyed gaze, were accompanied by foamy salivation, asymmetrical facial symmetry, and difficulty chewing and swallowing. Dr. Alix recognized the urgency of the situation immediately and was highly suspicious of Tetanus, a potentially life-threatening condition. However, due to the complexity of the symptoms, other possibilities couldn’t be ruled out just yet.  It was obvious Bucky needed to receive specialised and ongoing care whatever was going on, and it was advised for him to be transferred to the Veterinary Referral Hospital to continue his treatment.

Tetanus toxicity in dogs is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition caused by the neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium Tetani. Tetanus is characterized by the interference with normal nerve impulses.

In Class II Tetanus (which became confirmed in Bucky’s case), the symptoms are more pronounced compared to Class I, indicating a more severe form of the disease. Dogs affected by Class II Tetanus may exhibit a range of symptoms including; spasms and tremors throughout the body (these can be spontaneous or triggered by stimuli such as noise, touch, or movement), facial abnormalities such as facial asymmetry, drooping lips or eyelids, crossed or misaligned eyes (strabismus) and squinting.  Neurological abnormalities may also be present in severe cases, causing an altered mental state or even seizures.

Tetanus also causes severe muscle stiffness, spasms and tremors, including those affecting the muscles involved in chewing and swallowing. As a result, dogs with Tetanus may have difficulty eating and swallowing normally, putting them at risk of malnutrition and dehydration.  By placing an oesophagostomy tube, Bucky’s veterinarians (and also his owners at home), could provide a safe and efficient way to deliver nutrition directly into his oesophagus and down to his stomach. The tube is surgically inserted through a small incision in the neck and into the oesophagus, bypassing the mouth and throat muscles that may be affected by Tetanus. This method allows for the administration of food and medications directly into the oesophagus, ensuring Bucky received the necessary nutrients to support his recovery.

Tetanus is considered a medical emergency, requiring immediate veterinary attention. Bucky went on to receive appropriate treatment which involved a combination of supportive care and specific antitoxin therapy. The aim was to control muscle spasms, provide respiratory support if needed (as the muscles related to breathing are often affected), and prevent further toxin production. Intravenous antibiotics were administered to eliminate the bacteria from his system, and other medications were given to support his organ function and manage these symptoms as well.

Recovery for Bucky will be a slow and gradual process. The prognosis varies depending on the severity of the condition and the response to treatment. While some dogs may make a full recovery, others may experience long-term complications or, in rare cases, may not respond to treatment at all.  We are hoping against hope that Bucky is one of the lucky ones.

And, so far, Bucky is showing all the positive signs of being on the road to recovery and his resilient spirit is shining through every time we see him.  If it wasn’t for the quick actions of his loving family, his story could have been a very different one.  He sure is one lovely guy, and we hope to see him back to his spritely working dog self very soon!

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