Real stories from our doctors: Sam--Stuck Behind the Sink

Submitted by: Susannah Tehran-Brock, DVM
 Banfield Pet Hospital of Gresham


As a veterinarian you get pretty used to hearing some unusual stories and fielding some strange questions. Occasionally, though, there will be a story that sticks in your head and captures the imagination of the entire staff. Such is the story of a puppy named Sam.

“Can I please bring my puppy to your hospital,” said the woman. “The fire department has just freed him and he can’t use one of his legs. I think it might be broken.” This was how our hospital first heard about Sam. Phone calls often don’t offer you the full answer, after all, the important thing is to ensure your client knows to bring her pet in as soon as possible. No one wants to hang out with a broken leg! Our receptionist promptly told the client to come on in and figured we would get the rest of the story when we saw the puppy.

Sam was carried into our hospital by his mom, with aunt and siblings in tow. Everyone was teary-eyed, except for Sam. He was doing everything he could to jump out of her arms and bounce around the exam room, and looked very happy. His arm though wasn’t quite so happy, hanging limply from an area around his elbow. He also had a nasty bruised area running across the front of his chest and under the armpit of the limp arm. As I performed my physical exam I asked for more details regarding Sam’s accident.

When everyone left for work or school that morning Sam was a happy go lucky pup, running around the house – obviously looking for fun stuff to do. It appears that during his “research” he discovered a pedestal-style sink in the bathroom. Only Sam would be able to share why he decided to crawl or jump up behind the sink. However, when mom and kids came home they discovered Sam stuck firmly behind the sink at an angle. They tried to free him both by wiggling his body and rocking the sink but he was not coming out so they called the fire department. When the firemen arrived they tried to move him out without destroying the sink, but were also unsuccessful. Mom made the quick decision to rip out the sink--anything to get little Sam free. The firemen determined how best to remove the sink without cutting Sam in the process. Once he had been freed, though happily licking family and firefighters alike, Sam was found to be unable to use his right front leg. Shortly after a quick phone call Sam was on his way to our hospital.

The physical exam showed no other abnormalities other than those already mentioned. I recommended radiographs since there were two possible causes of Sam’s lameness – a fracture or damage to the nerves in his arm caused by the prolonged hours of pressure. We gave Sam some pain medication to ensure the radiographs weren’t an unpleasant experience for him. The radiographs did not reveal any fractures and Sam was responsive to deep pain stimulation in the affected limb.

At this point I let the family know that the most likely diagnosis was paralysis of the main nerves in Sam’s arm. This was both good and potentially bad news. The good news was that Sam wouldn’t need a splint or surgery to fix a broken limb. The bad news was that there wasn’t much we could do medically other than control the inflammation of his leg. However, we told Sam’s family they could help by doing lots of physical therapy to keep his muscles active and avoid loss of tone while the nerve healed. I outlined a program for Sam over the next couple of weeks and let the family know that the two things he had in his favor were his young age and the fact that he had a good response to pain in that leg. Sam, of course, was happy as a clam, making sure he licked everyone on staff before he left.

I am very happy to report that everyone did a great job and over the next couple of weeks Sam recovered all function in his leg and starting running around as crazily as he did before the incident. We’ve seen him at the hospital several times now, first for vaccines and, just the other day, for his neuter. Every time he comes in he is beaming, big grin on his face, just waiting to get an opening to lick you and let you know how happy he is. He has become a staff favorite, not least of which because of the great way in which we got to meet him: “The fire department just freed him…”