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Lucky Lucy

By: Carole Cloud Date: May 11, 2015

Dr. Vikram Arora, chief resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Temple Medicine, was on his way home after a long shift when he noticed a little white dog scurrying across North Broad Street. 

Lucy at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital

When he checked his rearview mirror to make sure the dog was safely on the other side, he saw a pickup truck smack right into the dog, now lying on the street, crying.

“When I saw Lucy get hit by the truck,” said Arora, “I drove about a hundred feet and realized that no one had stopped. I turned around and went to check on her. It was heartbreaking to see her try to stand with the obvious deformity of her leg. When I walked over to her, she just wanted to get into my lap, never displaying any aggression. At that point, it was a pretty easy decision to take her to get the help she needed.”

Arora knew that if the dog was to survive, he had to move quickly. Carefully placing the little dog in his car, he drove as fast as he could to the Emergency Service at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital – the only certified Veterinary Trauma Center in the region.

The young dog was in bad shape. In addition to an open wound on her hind end, she had blood stains on top of her nose, upper left lip, chin, right hind leg, and tail. On examination, she was in shock with evidence of significant blood loss.

When Emergency Service resident Dr. Laura Ateca finished her examination, it looked as if the dog, underweight and with no owner identifiers or microchip, had suffered major trauma when she was hit by the truck.

At Penn Vet, we take a team-based approach to treating our patients.

Initial blood work revealed a pre-regenerative anemia, most likely related to acute blood loss, as well as elevated liver values likely due to hypovolemia, a condition in which blood volume or fluid levels can drastically drop as a result of a traumatic injury. The dog’s condition was critical since hypovolemic shock quickly impacts renal, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems.

A decision about the dog’s care had to be made quickly, and there was no doubt she would need surgery. After resuscitation with intravenous fluids to treat her hypovolemic shock, Ateca consulted with the surgical team to determine a ballpark cost for subsequent care. It wasn’t going to be cheap and, since there was no owner on record, Ateca delivered the news to Arora, the good Samaritan who had brought the dog to Penn Vet.

“I spoke with Dr. Arora very early during the dog’s resuscitation,” said Ateca, “and without any hesitation, he said to do whatever we could to save her. It turns out that, during the short time they were together in the car, they made an immediate connection and he knew what he had to do.”

Dr. Heidi McDevitt with Lucy

After learning that the necessary surgery would potentially cost thousands of dollars, Arora got on the phone with his wife. Meanwhile, lying quietly in an oxygen case under blankets to keep up her body temperature, the dog was kept comfortable with pain medications. When Arora returned, he shared the news that he and his wife had decided to take responsibility for the little Chihuahua mix.

“Once I knew her prognosis was optimistic,” said Arora, “I felt obligated to do everything I could to help her.” 

But first the dog would need a new name. Arora chose “Lucy.” Little Lucy was promptly anesthetized so she could undergo a CT scan. Overnight, x-rays revealed multiple, displaced fractures of her pelvis, including her ilium, ischium, and pubis. But a CT scan would provide a more detailed assessment of the acetabular (hip sockets) and sacroiliac joints (where the pelvis meets the spine), as there was concern about possible fine fractures. Fortunately, these joints were intact.

Dr. Heidi McDevitt, surgical resident, explained that, although Lucy had numerous fractures, only those that directly affected her weight bearing would need to be addressed. The major weight-bearing aspects of the pelvis include the acetabulum, ilium, and sacroiliac joints. Under the supervision of senior faculty, including board certified veterinary surgeons Drs. Jeffrey Runge and Cara Blake, McDevitt had already confirmed that the acetabular and sacroiliac joints were intact, only the ilium would need to be repaired. The fractures in Lucy’s right ischium and pubis would heal with rest and time, so additional surgical procedures were not necessary. The prognosis for Lucy’s recovery was definitely optimistic.

The arrow shows the fracture of Lucy's ilium

Prior to surgery, Lucy’s overall condition required further stabilization. Her anemia put her at risk for anesthetic complications, so a blood transfusion was administered.

Once Lucy was anesthetized, McDevitt repaired the dog’s ilial fracture using a stainless steel plate and screws. These would stabilize the fracture fragments, allowing them to heal. Lucy’s surgery was successful and the little dog was up and walking the next day.

To ensure Lucy’s ilium would heal properly, McDevitt recommended several post-operative instructions. First, Lucy would need to keep her E-collar on until sutures were removed. Second, she would need to be confined to a crate or small room for the next six to eight weeks. Running or jumping, especially with other dogs, was strictly prohibited. “Rest is the only way to allow the fracture to heal,” said McDevitt.

The arrow shows the repair work of plate and screws to Lucy's iliumIn spite of the need for strict rest while Lucy was healing, it was also important that she perform controlled exercises to help maintain her flexibility and muscle mass. For that, McDevitt showed Maggie Arora how she could help Lucy with passive range of motion exercises three to four times a day. Moving the injured leg through a complete flexion and extension as if she was riding a bicycle would help maintain her flexibility and range of motion. Additionally, assisting Lucy in performing balancing and weight bearing exercises would help to retain and rebuild the muscles in her injured leg. Eventually these exercises will allow her to return to full activity in her new home.

Lucy continued to heal well following her surgery. “She is now bearing full weight on her injured limb and there are no noticeable abnormalities in her gait,” said Arora. “While we don't know much of her background, her thin appearance and wariness led us to believe she may not have been living in the best environment prior to her accident. Despite her prior circumstances, she has been the sweetest dog – I have yet to hear her bark. She is doing well with her socialization and becoming more confident every day.”

Vikram and Maggie Arora with Lucy


About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.