One Friday afternoon recently, the family were in the back garden, enjoying the sunshine. The girls’ Mum, Louise, was on a recliner reading a book while the children were throwing a tennis ball back and forth. Elsie was snoozing in the shady space beneath one of those large circular trampolines that’s so common in Irish back gardens. It was an idyllically peaceful scene, and worries of any sort of unfortunate accident taking place were the last thing on anyone’s mind.
The calmness was suddenly shattered by the sound of Elsie screaming loudly, as if in serious pain. Everyone stopped what they were doing and ran across to her: what was happening?
WHAT HAD CAUSED ELSIE TO SCREAM?
It was not obvious at the time, but looking back, this was the sequence of events. A tennis ball, thrown by one of the children, had bounced close to Elsie, still snoozing beneath the trampoline. She loves chasing balls, and the sight of it close to her was enough to wake her up and stimulate her to run after it. She leapt to her feet and lunged after the ball. That’s when the accident happened.
Elsie had been lying in the shade, close to the warm metalwork of the underside of the trampoline. There were a number of protruding bolts on the inside of the metal framework. These would not normally cause any problem: they are high up on the inside of the structure, well away from any likely points of contact with children playing. The ends of the bolts were not pointed and did not seem obviously sharp in any way. However when Elsie jumped up suddenly, she threw her full weight against one of the protruding pieces of metal. The effect was similar to being stabbed by a screwdriver: the metal bolt punctured the skin on her flank.
For a few seconds, poor Elsie was impaled on the inside of the trampoline, and this is when they had all heard her squealing. As people ran up to her, Elsie managed to wriggle away from the metal bolt, and she raced around the garden, still yelping in pain. After a few minutes, she calmed down and allowed the Coffeys to examine her. At first, the injury did not seem severe: there was no bleeding, and Elsie’s fur covered the wound, so that it looked more like a graze than a laceration. Elsie settled down, and started to behave normally, so they thought that it had been a lucky escape. They brought Elsie in to see me anyway, in case some sort of follow-up like an anti-tetanus injection might be needed.
A TRIP TO THE VET WAS NEEDED
In fact, dogs don’t need anti-tetanus injections but whenever a dog is injured, good wound care is important, ensuring that any injured area is cleaned up and bathed regularly to keep it clean. As a first step, I clipped the fur away from the edge of the “graze” on Elsie’s side: that’s when the full extent of her injury became obvious.
The metal bolt had gone right through her skin, causing a 10cm long laceration that had also torn some of the muscles beneath the surface. She was fortunate that her abdominal cavity had not been penetrated: this would have been a life threatening injury. As it was, she needed much more than just wound cleaning: I had to give her a full general anaesthetic, cleaning up the inside of the wound and suturing the skin edges together. She had to wear an Elizabethan collar for the ten days that it took her skin to heal.
Elsie made a full recovery, and she’s already gone back to sleeping beneath the trampoline. She isn’t stupid though: she now chooses a spot far away from those harmless-looking yet dangerous metal bolts.
- Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime
- Any wound should be closely inspected, even if there is no bleeding
- If unsure, phone your local vet to ask what you should do