Last Sunday, I was outside the hospital (which is in my backyard) tending to the early-spring shrubs in the oh-so-bizarre warmth of 80 degrees in March in New England. The peace and privacy that is a Sunday, the only day of the week our hospital is closed, was broken by a car zooming up the driveway, wind-surfing Brittany spaniel bobbing out the back window.
For a moment, I thought it might be Jessie’s new owners bringing her back for a visit unannounced. But this dog could see me.
Pruning shears in hand, clad in dirty work clothes, I approach the car. A woman rolls down her car window and in heavy accent barks, “Are you open?”
Does it look like we’re open? “It’s Sunday,” I say. Deep breath. Compassion. Understanding. “Do you have an emergency?” I say.
“My dog has a bone stuck in her mouth.” The young Brittany in the backseat looks like she is smiling because indeed, she has a beef marrow bone stuck on her lower jaw.
My husband, Andy, opens the hospital for them and takes down their information as I begin to find the tools to try and remove the bone jammed around the poor dog’s mandible.
“Do you have a vet?” Andy asks.
“Oh yes, we have vet.” I see the rabies tag on Bella, a 9-month-old Brittany pup, from a hospital closer to Bella’s home. Maybe they did a drive-by there as well and found nobody in. Why did they drive 40 minutes to see me? I think they are friends of Jessie’s.
FYI, these drive-bys happen a lot, and I am always amazed that clients haven’t called first to make sure I’m at the hospital. I realize my clients know I live at my practice. But don’t I ever go, say, to the supermarket? Out for lunch? I think they think I have food air-lifted in so I never have to leave the premises.
If you have an emergency, unless you know you are going to a 24-hour emergency vet, or are going to your own vet during regular hours, always call first. The few minutes it takes to beep your vet or get instructions on where to take your pet can be, in some instances, life-saving.
In the case of Bella, I didn’t ask anymore questions. I was there. The dog was there. I could handle this without a full staff. Get the bone removed from the poor dog’s mouth and send her on her way!
With a Knick Knack Paddywack, Give the Dog a Bone… Really?
Circular bones caught around lower jaws, and sticks or bones lodged in the roof of a dog’s mouth, are very common emergencies. I don’t recommend giving dogs bones, for this and many other reasons.
If your dog has been chewing on a foreign object and suddenly begins pawing at its mouth with both front paws, try to carefully open and look at the roof of the mouth. If you see the object wedged there, try carefully to extricate it with pliers or forceps. If you can’t dislodge it, get to the vet (call first!).
When you see a dog with a marrow bone stuck on its face, your first thought is, How is that possible? How did that bone get stuck behind the lower canines?! Well, it happens, and you usually need a large implement like a bolt cutter to split the bone and remove it. In adorable Bella’s case, it was so tight against the jaw and she was such a gregarious but stressed puppy, we needed a little drug help before removing the bone.
I sent Mr. and Mrs. Drive-by out for a drive-through burger. We sedated Bella just enough to get the trusty bolt cutters between the jaw and the bone and, voila, Bella no longer looked like she had selected bad body jewelry at the tattoo parlor. She left the hospital in about an hour, running, jumping, eating. The bone was nothing more than a folly of youth.
These marrow bones are very hard to remove by yourself. You can hurt the jaw or the teeth if you try to pull it off (usually impossible). Trying to cut the bone with bolt cutters is dangerous and may require some anesthesia in order to do it safely.
Seriously, folks, BONES ARE A BAD IDEA.
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