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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Dog survives rare struggle with tetanus

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lisa Shiley, left, and her dog Buddy thanked veterinarian Dr. Kristi Mason, with the Remsen Vet Clinic, for her dedication in treating Buddy after he contracted tetanus, a rarity in dogs. Buddy went home with his family last week after surviving a three-week battle to save his life.
It's very unusual for dogs to contract tetanus, but that's exactly what happened to a labrador named Buddy.

His owners Lisa and Tim Shiley, of Royal, are thankful their 4-year-old pet is on the road to recovery -- after his life-and-death battle.

Last week the couple took Buddy home from the Remsen Vet Clinic, where veterinarian Dr. Kristi Mason had been treating him since Oct. 4.

Before Buddy came into the clinic that day, Mason had never seen tetanus in a dog.

Tetanus is an often fatal disease affecting the central nervous system by causing painful muscular contractions. It begins when tetanus bacteria enter the body, usually through a wound or cut exposed to contaminated soil.

"He kind of looked like somebody had yelled 'surprise' in his face," Mason said of Buddy. "His eyes and ears were pulled back and his third eye was visible."

That's when the whites of a dog's eyes show, which usually doesn't happen in a healthy dog.

Because Mason had never seen or treated tetanus in a dog, she consulted with other veterinarians and a neurologist in Omaha.

"They couldn't really help," Mason said. "The ones (cases) they had seen had been 20 years ago."

After Buddy was brought to the clinic, his condition deteriorated quickly until by the end of the week he lost control of his back legs, Mason said.

"He eventually laid on the floor with his back feet behind him," she said. "He would just lay on his stomach and paddle."

That lasted for 10 days, Lisa said.

"He could no longer get himself up," she said. "It was hard to see him that way."

Mason said the loss of control of his legs happened overnight and as Buddy struggled to get to his feet he scraped his paws raw on the cement.

"They had him all bandaged up," Lisa said. "It was not a pretty sight."

Then Buddy started vomiting and the medicine used and sold in the vet clinic didn't work, so Mason had to get it elsewhere.

She treated Buddy with penicillin and supportive care including physical therapy working with his hind legs.

It wasn't easy for the Shileys, who visited about four times a week, to see Buddy suffering. They did consider euthanizing him.

When Buddy didn't develop any respiratory infections, which according to information Lisa found is the reason most dogs die from tetanus, the family decided to continue with treatment.

"My biggest concern if we did choose to euthanize I would always wonder if he could have made it," Lisa said. "You never want to make that decision to put a dog down. They are part of your family."

As for Mason, she was willing to care for Buddy as long as his quality of life wasn't affected.

"Basically I'm willing to treat anything as long as it wasn't hurting him," she said.

Neither the Shileys or Mason are certain how Buddy was infected with tetanus, but their theory is a rusty spot on his kennel at home.

About four weeks ago, the family noticed Buddy had a swollen foot so took him to the vet clinic, where x-rays determined it was not broken, Lisa said.

They think that injury got poked by a rusty piece of the kennel causing the tetanus.

"She said it only took a pinprick," Lisa said of Mason. "That's the most logical way he contracted it."

Whatever the reason, Lisa and Tim and their daughters Deena and Lanae are glad to have Buddy home.

"It was just an emotional roller coaster for those two weeks, not knowing if he was going to survive," Lisa said. "When we would get a phone call that he was still the same, we celebrated because he hadn't gotten worse."

Throughout Buddy's ordeal, Mason didn't have treatment guidelines to follow because of the rareness of tetanus in a dog. There is no vaccine for tetanus in a dog.

"He presented on the fourth for this," she said. "Until Saturday we really didn't know what was going to happen."

That Saturday, Oct. 16, was Buddy's turning point.

Mason stood him up during a physical therapy session and he was able to stand on his own, the next day he started walking around.

"After that, he never looked back," Mason said.

When the Shileys picked up Buddy last week to take him home, his tail never stopped wagging.

Although Buddy's eyes still look small, his face is slightly pulled back and his rear end stiff, Mason expects he will make a full recovery.

"He should continue to get better," she said. "He's eating and drinking on his own and that's a good sign."

Relapse is possible, but there's not enough information available as to how or when or if it would present, Mason said.

The Shileys are hopeful and thankful for Mason's dedication to bringing Buddy home.

"If something wasn't working, she would try something else," Lisa said. "She spent a lot of time with him."

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