The afternoon was humming along as I made my way from one exam room to the next. Behind Door No. 1 was a kitten with a snotty nose. Behind Door No. 2 was a tiny parrot with a broken leg. And behind Door No. 3 there was Dunkin.
Dunkin (not, his owner assured me, named after the doughnut store) was a gorgeous Border Collie, marked with crisp whites blending beautifully into black highlights. Not quite yet a year old, both he and his owner appraised me as I entered. I greeted them and settled in to hear the story behind their unexpected visit.
Dunkin and his owner had been playing a game of fetch. Lithe, athletic, I could see the dog in my mind making a fantastic leap into the air to grab the flying stick. Nothing is more beautiful to me than a good athlete at the top of their game. Only when Dunkin caught the stick he’d made an odd sound, and blood had trickled out of his mouth. They had come straight away to the vet clinic.
I first performed a full physical exam, then gently asked Dunkin if I could look into the back of his mouth. Say what you will, politeness counts with dogs who have been taught manners. Sure enough, way back, I could see a bruised area, though not terribly well. I asked his owner for permission to anesthetize Dunkin for a full exam of the back of his throat.
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On the surgery table, Dunkin lay in a deep, non-painful sleep. He was intubated and his heart rate and blood-oxygenation levels were excellent. We examined teeth, gums and around his tongue. All fine. Farther back, I could see the source of blood coming from his right tonsil area. It looked odd. Stretching out his neck, I could see the tonsillar crypt, a pouch-like indentation in the back of the throat, behind the base of the tongue. Something that looked like a fuzzy caterpillar was suspended below the purple, bruised and bloody hole. Momentarily puzzled, I examined his left side, where both tonsillar crypt and tonsil were intact and a normal glossy pink. Wow! The stick that Dunkin caught had sheared off his right tonsil in a near perfect excision. It hung on by a tattered shred. There was no question of reattaching it, so I completed the tonsillectomy and sutured the battered crypt back together. Some antibiotics, some anti-inflammatory and pain medications and Dunkin was set to go.
And go he did. I followed up with Dunkin about two weeks later and he sat perfectly still as I examined the back of his throat. He had healed beautifully. His owner reported that she had stopped tossing sticks for him but it seemed hopeless – if she wouldn’t play, Dunkin would happily toss a stick as high into the air as he could and then leap joyfully after it! You just can’t keep a good dog down!
Christine McFadden holds a license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery. She has cared for the family pets of Merced at Valley Animal Hospital for more than 30 years. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.