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Veterinarian solves medical mystery, discovers hidden reason dog could not heal

MINNEAPOLIS — Cuddy the Irish setter is a dog who loves life and loves to run, but one day this summer, she bolted into the woods, only to come out later baying in panic.

What started as a carefree summer day turned into a challenging six-month mystery. Cuddy seemed in pain, but had no visible wounds.  Her neck swelled up, but nothing showed up on X-rays. A fever came and went. An abscess developed that  came back again and again.

Dr.  Andrew Jackson of BluePearl Veterinary Partners with the stick he removed from Cuddy.

Dr. Andrew Jackson of BluePearl Veterinary Partners with the stick he removed from Cuddy.

Thankfully, the mystery was solved this week after Cuddy was brought to BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Eden Prairie.

Dr. Andrew Jackson, a board-certified veterinary surgeon at BluePearl, injected a special dye into Cuddy’s abscess before taking another X-ray. Thanks to the dye, Jackson discovered the culprit: A two-inch stick gouged into Cuddy’s neck during that run into the woods. The stick remained hidden in Cuddy’s body for half a year because wood does not show up on X-rays.

“It was such a relief,” said Cuddy’s owner Myrle Croasdale. “She is the sweetest and most energetic little dog, she’s a delight to have around. The joy she takes when she runs, I swear you can see her smiling and laughing.”

Croasdale said she checked Cuddy, who was then 1, right after the incident in July, which occurred in Rockford.  While the pup wasn’t bleeding, Croasdale took her to the veterinarian, who prescribed antibiotics and said a small puncture wound or a hornet’s sting might have been the cause.

The medicine helped reduce the swelling, but a fist-sized abscess kept returning. This continued for months. The veterinarian recommended seeing a specialist, but cost was a concern.

The subject of euthanasia was brought up, but Croasdale was not ready to give up on her beloved pet, who in spite of her condition was still full of life and excitement. “I was determined to find a solution,” she said.

Fortunately, she got help from some generous people. Relatives pitched in, as did a national charity called Frankie’s Friends, which provides funds for families who need lifesaving care for their pets.

Jackson, of BluePearl, scheduled Cuddy for an appointment Monday to see if he could discover the source of the problem.

This stick was inside Cuddy's neck for nearly half a year.

This stick was inside Cuddy’s neck for nearly half a year.

Given the history, Jackson suspected some sort of foreign body might have gotten inside Cuddy’s body. The dye he injected into Cuddy’s wound contained iodine, which is visible on X-rays. This allowed Jackson to see the outline of a two-and-a-half-inch object that most definitely did not belong inside Cuddy.

He surgically removed the stick and now Cuddy is doing well. “She recovered from surgery yesterday, she went home and she looks great – she’s right where she should be,” Jackson said.

Looking back, Croasdale said she is proud of her “tough little girl.” She said for her, this has been a learning experience. She did not know all the capabilities of veterinary specialty hospitals such as BluePearl, but she’s grateful that she found out.

It means Cuddy will be healthy as she rings in 2017.

“This is a happy ending,” Croasdale said.

Dr. Andrew Jackson of BluePearl Veterinary Partners with the stick he removed from Cuddy.

Dr. Andrew Jackson of BluePearl Veterinary Partners with the stick he removed from Cuddy.