Auburn, Alabama —
College of Veterinary Medicine faculty are hearing the praises from pet owners about the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital in the few weeks it has been open, but two faculty recently learned firsthand, bringing in their beloved pets for unexpected surgery.
For Dr. Annette Smith’s 13-year-old Dalmatian, Pandora, like her namesake box, looking inside proved problematic.
Dr. Smith, head of the Oncology service in the Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital and a professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, brought her dog, Pandora, to Auburn University Veterinary Clinic when she noticed a red mass above the dog’s eye.
“A lot of times older dogs will get little red growths, and they’ll usually be nothing, but this was growing and irregular,” Dr. Smith said, which was why she decided to bring her own pet to the clinic, which is part of the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.
Pre-anesthetic X-rays revealed a tumor in Pandora’s left lung.
“She had a tumor in her left caudal lung lobe,” said Dr. Brad Matz, a clinical instructor. “A lot of times you’ll find tumors when you take chest X-rays for something else.”
Before the tumor was revealed by the X-rays, Dr. Smith said Pandora showed no red-flag-raising symptoms. “Dogs can have signs, but a lot of the time lung tumors are found with pre-anesthetic screenings.
“This was more of an incidental finding.”
Dr. Smith said because tumors can be symptomless and are often found incidentally, regular health maintenance exams are important.
Once Pandora’s tumor was found, Dr. Stephanie Schleis, an Emergency and Critical Care veterinarian and an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, delivered the news to Dr. Smith.
“I knew something was wrong when Dr. Schleis came to my office to talk to me,” Dr. Smith said.
Delivering the news to a colleague is different from a standard exchange with a client, although just as heartfelt. Dr. Matz said performing surgery on colleagues’ pets is different from working with a usual client, because of the close bond between co-workers and the closeness of the owners to their pets.
“I’ve done this a few times,” Dr. Matz said. “It’s nice someone trusts you with their pet, but it’s a little nerve racking.”
Ultimately, the tumor and Pandora’s left caudal lung lobe were removed.
Somewhat ironically, the same day Pandora underwent surgery, a tumor was found in another faculty member’s dog.
Dr. Lenore Bacek, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences assistant clinical professor for Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, brought her 10-year-old dog, Daisy, in because the dog had been vomiting.
During Daisy’s examination, Dr. Rafael Obrador De Aguilar, an Emergency and Critical Care veterinarian and an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, found a lump on Daisy’s thyroid, and surgery was necessary.
“They removed both thyroid glands,” Dr. Bacek said. “It’s kind of good luck I brought her in for vomiting.”
Both Daisy and Pandora have been with their respective owners for more than a decade. “Daisy came back from the Caribbean with me, when she was eight-weeks old,” Dr. Bacek said. “She’s been everywhere.” Dr. Smith rescued Pandora when she was three-weeks old.
Both dogs are home recovering from their surgeries, and within 24 hours of her surgery, Pandora was up and energetic.
“It’s a testament to the fact we can do great pain control for these guys,” Dr. Smith said. “A lot of people say they couldn’t put their dogs through major surgery, but when you look at something like this-- suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.”
Dr. Annette Smith and Pandora