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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sandor Demeter

Love conquers all!

“Your dog was shot in the head” is all I can remember hearing when our local vet went over Buddy’s CT scan report.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Buddy is a five-year-old gorgeous, loving and gentle rescue dog from Northern Manitoba.

When we met Buddy at his foster home, we felt an immediate connection.

Buddy had had a rough early life. He was shot in the leg, had heartworm and he was emaciated when rescued. He had the bullet removed from his leg, his heartworm was cleared with medications and he plumped up. We have Manitoba Underdogs, and especially Buddy’s foster mom, to thank for taking such good care of him.

Buddy adapted well to our home and backyard, where he loves to chase squirrels and rabbits who have had to adapt to a new reality: There’s a new dog in the yard!

After about seven months with us, Buddy started to have a lot of snot — we call it snoozle — coming out of his left nostril.

Our vet suggested a round of antibiotics. The snoozle persisted and progressed to nose bleeds.

An urgent CT scan was ordered.

The results were a complete surprise: Buddy had been shot behind his left ear and instead of the bullet penetrating his skull, it had shattered and sprayed fragments from his left ear to the left side of his snout. It is a miracle that he survived a gunshot to the head!

Based on the CT scan, a fungal infection, most probably with Aspergillus, was the most likely diagnosis.

CT of Buddy’s head revealing the shower of bullet fragments being deposited from behind the left ear to the snout.

Our vet said the treatment Buddy needed was not available in Winnipeg and suggested we take him to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in

Saskatoon, about a nine-hour car ride one-way.

In the space of a month, we made three return trips to Saskatoon.

On the first visit to the WCVM we met with Dr. WeiCun Huang (Medicine Resident) and a senior vet student, Kendra Todd.

Buddy had another CT scan and they had a look up his nose to take a biopsy.

The biopsy failed to demonstrate Aspergillus and the Saskatoon vets advised against anti-fungal medications due to complicating factors (i.e., messed up anatomy due to the bullet fragments) until a definitive diagnosis was made.

So… back to Winnipeg with Buddy on a new antibiotic.

Buddy’s nose bleeds got worse. On a Sunday, at about midnight, we packed Buddy up and drove overnight to Saskatoon. Miraculously, he did not have nosebleeds on the trip.

I have to pause here to say that the health care Buddy received at the WCVM was excellent. Even though we arrived two days earlier than expected they admitted Buddy right away. We met with his medical team, primarily Dr. Paulin (Medicine Resident), and got calls two to three times a day about how he was doing. I lament that the care he got puts the “human” Canadian health-care system to shame.

The Saskatoon vets suggested an aggressive plan, including surgery to clean the gunk out of a sinus and remove as many bullet fragments as possible.

We agreed to the plan, said goodbye to Buddy, and left him in capable, and kind, hands. We drove back to Winnipeg without Buddy in the back seat. It was a quiet, sad and surreal trip.

He had lost so much blood that he needed a blood transfusion during surgery. Many thanks to the volunteer dog blood donor program!

Buddy survived the surgery (thank you Dr. Yasmine Messiaen – Surgery Resident) and we went back to collect him about a week later.

The surgical specimens clearly demonstrated an Aspergillus fungal infection.

However, there is no standard treatment for a dog that has been shot in the head, still has bullet fragments in his snout, and has a fungal infection.

Dr. Mathieu Paulin – Resident Medicine, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine with Buddy on the day of discharge after surgery. [permission obtained from Dr. Paulin]

Antifungal and antibiotic pills were prescribed.

Nine pills - twice a day.

For how long?

Not known!

We are now five months into an initial six-month course of Buddy meds and he is back to his playful, energetic self. Thank you WCVM.

We have to be creative about how we hide his pills in his food. He is good at eating the food and spitting out the pills.

We have tried pill pockets, salami, bologna, ham, beef, breakfast sausages, cheese, perogies, boiled eggs, tater tots, pizza, meatballs, pâté, cat food, profiteroles, dehydrated liver snacks, sweet potatoes with bacon and tripe… and the search for alternatives continues.

Being able to afford Buddy’s medical bills, which have already added up to more than $15,000, is not why Buddy has survived.

He has every reason in the world to be a neurotic mess who should want nothing to do with humans.

He, miraculously, has survived because of the unconditional love he has for those who care for him - for which we have reciprocated - he is part of our family.

Truly, love conquers all!

Budy two months post-op – back to himself.

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