Attacked Dog Saved by Multiple Specialists

Charlie was saved by specialists at the UC Davis veterinary hospital after being attacked by a larger dog.
Charlie was saved by specialists at the UC Davis veterinary hospital after being attacked by a larger dog.

“Case of the Month” – August 2019

Charlie, a 2-year-old male Maltese mix, and his owner, Tyler Wilcox, were on a routine walk in their neighborhood when Charlie was severely attacked by a much larger dog. The other dog had Charlie is his mouth—shaking him violently—and was not letting go. Wilcox was forced to intervene, having to get physical with the other dog in order to save Charlie.

Charlie was rushed to the nearest veterinary clinic where he was sedated and stabilized, but it was clear that his injuries were life threatening – he would need surgery within a few hours. The injuries were massive enough for the veterinarians at that clinic to discuss worse case scenarios with Wilcox.

“I was really down about how bad the situation was,” said Wilcox. “They were saying it might be best to euthanize Charlie. If I didn’t want to go that route, they said UC Davis was the only place that might be able to save him.”

When Wilcox arrived at the UC Davis veterinary hospital, Charlie was immediately taken to the Emergency Room. Specialists from the Emergency and Critical Care Service assessed the situation and consulted with specialists from the Soft Tissue Surgery Service and the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service.

“They told me that the surgery was going to be complicated, but the surgeons thought Charlie could get through it,” Wilcox said. “That made me feel a lot better. It made me feel confident that Charlie would survive. And the rest of the time he was there, it never crossed my mind again that Charlie wasn’t going to make it. I knew he was in good hands and that everything was going to be successful.”

Charlie had multiple puncture wounds on his chest and abdomen, as well as damage to his mouth. X-rays and an ultrasound revealed multiple rib fractures and swelling due to gas, air and fluids built up in his chest and abdominal cavity. Surgeons knew they would likely find more damage upon their full abdominal exploratory examination in surgery.

They discovered multiple tears in Charlie’s abdominal wall, a bruised liver lobe, bruising on the gall bladder, deep laceration to the spleen, and three tears in the diaphragm connecting his abdomen to his chest. Faculty surgeon Dr. Phillip Mayhew, along with residents Drs. Jeremy Fleming and Erin Gibson, removed Charlie’s spleen and surgically closed the tears in his body wall and diaphragm. Multiple drains were placed to continue drainage of fluid and air as he recovered. Charlie’s mouth was also addressed in surgery, and a damaged mandibular canine tooth was removed.

Charlie stayed in the Intensive Care Unit for two days and remained hospitalized for five days. Wilcox followed the veterinarians’ recovery recommendations, and Charlie was mobile and semi-active within just a few weeks.

Charlie’s treatment is indicative of the collaborative nature of care at UC Davis. Having multiple board-certified veterinarians in 34 specialty services allows for life-saving care when animals have multiple systemic ailments. The comprehensiveness of the UC Davis veterinary hospital makes it one of the most unique and advanced centers in the world. UC Davis looks to expand that footprint, as Phase I construction has commenced on its new Veterinary Medical Center.

Part of Charlie’s care was made possible by donations to the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Compassionate Care Funds. The fund helps lower income families defray costs involved with treating their sick or injured animals, and to treat shelter, stray and wild animals brought to the UC Davis veterinary hospital. Please consider continuing this legacy with a donation.

Wilcox also received help from patrons of his gym, where Charlie is a well-known mainstay. “They all love Charlie,” said Wilcox. “So they started a fund to help us. I don’t know what I would’ve done without everyone’s help. I’m so thankful that Charlie is happy and healthy again.”

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