Keeping our dogs safe means being aware of their surroundings and the potential for injury from things we often overlook. Through Rocco’s injury, Judy and her husband learned this lesson and wanted to share it with others.
Guest post by Judy Andrews
Rocco came into our lives in November, 2009. We were immediately smitten with this adorable six-month old mellow pup with the soft white fur and tan freckles and ears. Jody, Homeward Bound’s president, thought he was a Great Pyrenees mix (she knows her dogs), but he had no history or name when he arrived from a shelter in Southern California. He was given the name Bennett (no dog goes unnamed at Homeward Bound); we later changed it to Rocco.
It was still dark when my husband Dave took off for work at 5:30 a.m. on a cool, but dry Monday morning in February. Rocco typically slept in with me in the bedroom—but not that morning. He barked at the back sliding glass door to go outside while I quietly cursed him from bed.
I groggily crept downstairs to let him out to do his thing and returned to bed a while longer. Our curious and gentle boy loved exploring his yard with the big hill, and often sat up high for hours, quietly looking down as if guarding his flock of sheep (us)!
His right eye was shut
When it was time to get up, I thought it strange that Rocco wasn’t pawing at the door to greet me. As I made my way into the kitchen, I spotted him on the other side of the glass. He was lying down and his right eye was shut. I figured he bumped into something in the yard, but didn’t know what it was or the extent of the injury. It was too early in the day for bees to be out and not the right time of year for snakes.
So, I assumed it had to be one of three plants located just off the patio and lawn area where Rocco regularly went potty. Two of the plants were citrus trees with scary-looking thorns and branches that reached the ground. I had just pruned these back the day before, so some of the branches had sharp tips. The third plant I had planned to remove: a large Sago Palm with needle-sharp fronds that hung over the side of a pot. Rocco had easy access to all three of these plants.
I called his vet hospital (Loomis Basin) as soon as they opened and we managed to get an appointment later that morning. Rocco’s doctor wasn’t in, so I took him to see the first available vet. She sent me home with an ointment, antibiotics and instructions to call if he wasn’t better in two days. Rocco’s sore right eye continued to fester and became worse even with the meds. I brought him back to see his regular doctor—a wonderful vet named Tarra Williams (Tarra had saved the life of our previous dog, Max – twice).
His eye pressure skyrocketed
By then, Rocco’s eye pressure had skyrocketed to a dangerous level leaving him blind in his right eye and with one heck of a headache to boot. Dr. Williams immediately jumped into action. Rocco’s injury had developed into an emergency and he was having an acute glaucoma attack. Thankfully, we were able to get him to an ophthalmology specialist by noon.
The Animal Eye Center
It took the weight of three women to keep Rocco down while Dr. Lana Linton, who runs the Animal Eye Center in Rocklin, checked his painfully inflamed right eye. Rocco was clearly terrified—and so was I.
He was diagnosed with a condition called anterior uveitis with secondary glaucoma. I learned that secondary glaucoma can occur if not treated quickly following eye trauma. Although Rocco’s eye pressure responded well to medication, Dr. Linton explained there was little she could do to reverse the damage. “We’ll have to wait a few days to see if his sight returns,” she said. I hung on to this tiny glimpse of hope, and went home with a bag of meds and round-the-clock care instructions.
We saw Dr. Linton several more times that week for check-ups and even made an unscheduled emergency visit to the clinic on Valentine’s Day. Finally, an ultrasound confirmed the worst. It showed a deep penetrating puncture wound with retinal detachment. Rocco would never see out of the injured eye again. The doctor explained it would have to come out.
My gentle boy’s once beautiful brown eye was removed on February 25—exactly two weeks after the injury. They inserted an orbital prosthesis into the eye socket void to keep it from sinking in and looking hollow. (I found out later this is not standard practice at all vet clinics, but we were happy with the result).
Returning to normal
Fast forward five months and I’m pleased to report that Rocco is doing great seeing with one eye. He stumbled a bit at first while adjusting, but he’s back to his normal antics and working toward becoming a therapy dog. My once shy boy is now quite the flirt and attention-getter with his permanent wink!
A lesson learned the hard way
Rocco receives daily glaucoma drops and regular check-ups to keep his remaining eye healthy. It’s important to continue to monitor this eye for any signs of rising pressure and redness. His doctors say he is predisposed to developing glaucoma and any bump to the head or eye trauma can bring on another attack with the potential of leaving him completely blind.
Although we will never be 100-percent certain what punctured Rocco’s eyeball, we removed the three dangerous plants from the yard. I learned that Sago Palms are extremely poisonous to dogs and can be fatal to pets if just one seed is ingested.
Rocco’s injury taught me a painful, but valuable lesson about being more aware of what’s in his environment. We now make better landscape choices and always check for things that can accidentally hurt him—both outside and inside the house. By sharing this story with you, I hope to avoid a similar tragedy. Accidents can happen at any time, bringing life changes. And when they do occur to our beloved pets, we will be there for them every step of the way.
For a list of plants toxic to dogs and access to a 24-hour emergency poison hotline, please visit: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants-na