Sept. 26, 2019

Saving Smudge: Critically injured dog found in a ditch gets a second chance

New UCalgary animal shelter practicum great training for students and a life-saver for one lucky dog

Caution: The following article contains an image that may be considered graphic by some readers.

“This dog comes in on emergency. We don't know what happened to him, except that he was probably hit by a car, and he’d been lying there maybe 12 hours before he was found,” says Dr. Serge Chalhoub, DVM, recalling the arrival of Smudge at the AARCS (Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society) Safe Haven veterinary facility in southeast Calgary.

“He was really sick. His blood pressure and blood sugar were low. He was in shock. He also had dislocated hips, multiple wounds, a broken tail, and was breathing very fast because of a collapsed lung. We were this dog's last hope, essentially. It was either euthanasia right there, or, ‘Hey, we do what we can with what we have here.’"

Chalhoub, an internal medicine specialist and senior instructor at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), was supervising a group of fourth-year DVM students as part of a new practicum at AARCS, when the emergency case came in.

“The students were able to stabilize the dog quickly. These are all skills they've learned during three years of their curriculum. And they were incredible, because Smudge was critical. He had less than a 50/50 chance to survive when he was brought in. After stabilizing Smudge, they then assessed him again to see what else we could do to patch him together.”

Along with Dr. Chantal McMillan, DVM, a senior instructor in small animal medicine at UCVM, Chalhoub initiated the new partnership with AARCS. They saw it as a great opportunity for students to learn and provide service to the community at the same time.

Smudge on the mend.

Smudge on the mend.

University of Calgary

“There's so many animals that they could do physical exams, practice vaccinations, de-worming and prevention protocols for infectious diseases.” Not to mention the occasional emergency.

Vet med students get some extra help from experts at UCVM

Getting Smudge back on four feet was not a simple task. He spent more than a week in hospital and was back a few weeks later for dental work, reassessment of his many wounds, and for vaccination and de-worming.

Chalhoub says AARCS does amazing work with their rescue animals, but not having some of the fancier equipment found at specialty referral hospitals, the students had to put together Smudge’s care using basic medical principles with the help of the AARCS team. Specialists at UCVM were enlisted to guide the students through the more complex treatments.

Vet Med doctors who helped Smudge

UCVM’s Terri Schiller, Serge Chalhoub, Angelica Galezowski, and Chantal McMillan helped save Smudge.

Rahil Tarique, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

“We had Dr. Søren Boysen (an emergency and critical care specialist) involved in the case. He helped the students place a chest tube in Smudge, because the dog's pneumothorax (collapsed lung) kept recurring for a while. We had our surgeons involved as well, Dr. Rebecca Archer, Dr. Aylin Atilla, and Dr. Terri Schiller because they were looking at fixing the hip. We also had Dr. Nigel Caulkett involved for the anesthesia, and Dr. Angelica Galezowksi, a clinical pathologist, helped us with some of the blood work analysis.”

Experiencing the special demands of shelter medicine

Chalhoub say it was a great experience for the students being able enhance their skills in physical exams, surgery, anaesthesia, clinical pathology and critical care. But it was equally wonderful for the veterinary faculty involved. “To us, that's really teaching. Being able to teach on the fly, on the go, and guiding the students in their learning process is just magical."

Vet Med students with kittens

Fourth-year DVM students from left, Jenna Brandon, Justine Maybee, Alexandra Dooley, Brenna Sakatch.

Serge Chalhoub, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

“A lot of the students become really great volunteers of ours and they have kind of a different mindset once leaving here,” says Ariana Lenz, the medical director at AARCS. “It opens their eyes to rescue medicine in general and they bring that with them into regular practice when they graduate.”

Happy endings

In the end, Smudge made a full recovery, with only an amputated tail and a few scars as a reminder of his ordeal. That happy outcome got even happier when a Calgary family saw his picture on the AARCS website and decided to bring him home.

“It became this really cool case,” Chalhoub says. “It was really neat because of all the faculty and the students involved, and essentially the students were the drivers of this case. Here we are with Smudge, coming out of this on the other side, fully healed and adopted by a family.

“You can see in the photos the new owners sent, he’s laying out in their living room, and they're petting him, and he just seems so happy.”

Smudge and his owners

A happy Smudge gets some loving from his new family.

Courtesy Smudge's family