The Case Of The Al­most-lethal Or­gan­ism

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - John Kaya

Rocco, a big, bruis­ing 2-year-old male pit bull, had a hand­ful of prob­lems.

Prob­lem No. 1: He was al­lowed off- leash to roam his ru­ral neigh­bor­hood at will. Though large and im­pos­ing, he had a sweet dis­po­si­tion, and the lo­cal chil­dren loved him.

How­ever, Prob­lem No. 2 was that though he was fond of peo­ple, he didn’t care for other an­i­mals and had mul­ti­ple run- ins with lo­cal wildlife.

This leads us to Prob­lem No. 3: One day, Rocco en­coun­tered a very dan­ger­ous chicken.

“Doc, I’m not sure what’s wrong with Rocco. He’s not his usual en­er­getic self and seems un­steady on his feet. I ’ m r eally wor­ried,” ex­claimed Mr. Thomp­son.

Nor­mally Rocco would be bowl­ing me over by j ump­ing and l i ck­ing my face. His down­trod­den pos­ture and for­lorn ex­pres­sion said it all.

“When did this start?” I asked.

“I think it started yes­ter­day morn­ing af­ter he …” Mr. Thomp­son paused. “Well, he was out ter­ror­iz­ing the wild chick­ens that roam our prop­erty, and he stum­bled upon one t hat had died.

“At f i r st he j ust r olled around on top of the smelly car­cass. A few mo­ments later, be­fore I re­ali zed what was go­ing on, Rocco had i ngested half of t he bird. Any­way, l ater t hat night he started t o act funny. I j ust as­sumed he had an up­set stom­ach from his rot­ten meal, but now I’m not so sure.”

We ran a bar­rage of tests and couldn’t find any­thing wrong with Rocco. Fear­ing t hat his con­di­tion would worsen, I r ec­om­mended that he be hos­pi­tal­ized for ob­ser­va­tion and started him on an IV drip. As the night wore on, Rocco got worse, and by morn­ing he could no longer stand.

The r apid on­set of his clin­i­cal signs hinted at a dis­ease that I rarely see in prac­tice: bot­u­lism.

The i ntesti­nal t r act of t he dead chicken Rocco ate con­tained Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum. Af­ter eati ng the car­cass, Rocco got in­fected with this po­ten­tially lethal bac­terium. The tox­ins pro­duced by this nasty or­gan­ism af­fect the ner­vous sys­tem and causes paral­y­sis that spread through­out Rocco’s body. I in­formed Mr. Thomp­son of Rocco’s con­di­tion and gave him a guarded prog­no­sis.

“Rocco can no l onger stand, eat, drink or uri­nate on his own. I’m hop­ing the paral­y­sis does not af­fect his di­aphragm.

“If i t does, he won’t be able to breathe on his own. We will con­tinue t o give hi m s up­port­ive c a r e by catheter­iz­ing him so t hat we can re­move his urine, a n d we’l l a l s o p r o v i d e some nu­tri­tional sup­port through his IV. We have to hope for the best.”

Days went b y, a n d I would of­ten sit with Rocco, wait­ing for a sign that told me his muscle con­trol was re­turn­ing.

The Thomp­son f a mi l y c a me e v e r y d a y to visit him, and t hough he couldn’t move a muscle, Rocco’s eyes beamed with ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Then it hap­pened. On day seven, Rocco started to lift his head. Though just a lit­tle at first, it was a sign that said ev­ery­thing was go­ing to be all right. Sev­eral days l ater, Rocco was headed home and t he Thomp­son fam­ily was whole again.

When I last spoke to the Thomp­sons, they said Rocco was back to his usual self and continuing his pas­time of chas­ing wild chick­ens. Hope­fully he l earned his l es­son and won’t eat any dead ones.

Then again … he is a dog, and s ome­times you j ust can’t con­tain the wild side.

Dr. John Kaya is a vet­eri­nar­ian at Hawai‘ i Kai Ve­teri­nary Clinic.

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