Paw Prints of an Angel

Dr Katria Lovell

‘For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.’

‘For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.’

‘For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.’

‘For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.’

‘For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.’

Zincer Puppy

Zincer Puppy

Zincer Puppy

Zincer Puppy

Zincer Puppy

Every once in a while, a dog enters your life and changes everything. Now in our profession, veterinarians are many things; the family GP, the dentists, optometrists, cardiologists, dermatologists, oncologists, teachers, counsellors, surgeons, ER miracle workers… and the list goes on.

Every day we work tirelessly, sometimes saving lives, sometimes ending them, sometimes managing the day to day and the in between. Listening to a panicked voice message from a dear friend of mine, I learned two things: 1), her best friend’s fur baby was at the emergency centre in big, life threatening trouble and 2), this patient would be like no other I had ever seen.

For Squibby, as she is affectionately known, was not just a bull terrier in intensive care for severe abdominal pain, infection and likely obstruction, but a bull dog suffering from Lethal Acrodermatitis, a ‘Zincer’ puppy.

Canine Lethal Acrodermatitis is a rare, genetic disease of bull dogs that has similarities to Acrodermatitis enterohepatica in humans. Affected puppies typically show signs at an early age and the condition is typically associated with severe growth retardation, severe skin disease, gastrointestinal and neurological deficits. There is no cure and affected dogs have an average survival time of seven months. So, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Squibby was not only a Zincer dog, in intensive care for a major unrelated problem, but also six years old, one of the oldest known Zincer dogs in the world at this time. No pressure!

The prognosis given for Squibby was extremely guarded. She was being treated and investigated for a severe abdominal infection and required major abdominal surgery, a high risk for any patient, let alone a patient with Squibby’s background. Most people had advised Squibby’s mum to give up, and we will be forever grateful that Squibby’s owner sought our help and opinion in a desperate bid to save her life.

Squibby was in a bad way after arriving as an emergency transfer to our clinic. The abdominal pain had been becoming progressively worse all week. After much discussion and an intensive period of medical stabilisation, Squibby was taken to theatre, her distraught mum with the knowledge that she may never wake up.

After five hours of cutting, examining, flushing and yes, a little praying, we removed the offending cause. For some reason, Squibby had seen fit to eat the entire head of a bright blue mop. The mop had caused an obstruction and perforation of her bowel, leading to the production of septic infection and fluid that was slowly poisoning her system.

I don’t think any of us slept the night of her recovery from surgery. We stared at this little miracle patient as she defied odds after odds; every minute of the anaesthetic and recovery was monitored for any signs that she might be giving up. After all, these dogs rarely make their first birthday, let alone survive a five-hour abdominal surgery whilst in a critical condition, yet she never once wavered in her recovery. Minute after minute, hour after hour, day by day, Squibby came back to us. She ticked every box we ask for in a ‘textbook’ recovery and along the way, charmed every single one of our team members with her eccentricities, including her compulsion to eat ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, and her tendency to bob her head in time to the pop music flowing from our clinic radio.

Three months later and Squibby is doing better than ever. She continues to be the apple of her amazing mother’s eye, and gives hope to breeders and owners of these affected dogs around the world.

Squibby is quite literally one in a million; an angel, a miracle and a patient we will never ever forget. We were truly blessed to have the opportunity to save this precious girl’s life and the paw prints she left on our hearts will never fade…