FOR THE ❤ OF ANIMALS · December 10th, 2018

Saving Coco

by Stuart Owen, DVM


At our clinic last May, as I was headed out for lunch, I heard a woman in the waiting room scream: “Please help Coco!”

Coco, a 5-year-old German Shepherd, who was a regular patient of ours for several years, arrived with dressings covering most of her body. One of the dressings had been chewed off revealing severe trauma.

Five days before, while the client was out of the country, Coco had been involved in a heartbreaking tragedy. She was staying with a dog sitter a few hours north of Toronto. They took a walk to the store and before going inside, the sitter tied Coco to a trailer attached to a pickup truck. The driver, unaware Coco was tied to his trailer, hopped in his vehicle and took off down the highway dragging Coco behind at 80 km/h (50mph) for nearly a mile before being forced off the road by another concerned driver. Shortly after, provincial police took Coco to a local veterinary hospital.

The first few days following the accident, the team at Blue Mountain Veterinary Clinic helped stabilize Coco and provided excellent care until her owner, Suzanne, could take her back home to Toronto. En route, Coco had chewed a bandage off her hind leg. For the first time, Suzanne witnessed the true extent of her wounds. That’s when they arrived at our hospital.

Having been in practice for almost 40 years, I’ve seen my share of traumatic cases. I knew this would be a long journey for everyone involved with no real guarantee of a positive outcome. In many ways, it would have been easier to refer her to a specialist’s clinic. But Coco had this incredible temperament, Suzanne was wholly committed to her, and I knew if we took this case, our staff would step up and do whatever was needed to try and help her.

Initially, Coco’s care was all about wound management and establishing good, healthy tissues. After ten days and two surgeries, we made good progress, but it quickly became apparent she would need a skin graft to help cover the large wound on her hind leg.

At top: The severity of Coco’s injuries and skin loss. At bottom: The surgical procedure to restore and replace Coco’s skin.

Fortunately, we were able to bring in Dr. Justin Levy, a board-certified surgeon, for this procedure. Although we encountered some setbacks, the operation was successful. I believe Coco may now be the only dog in Toronto with two nipples on the side of her hind leg.

At left, Coco’s leg shortly after the skin graft. At right, her healed leg.

Continued pain management and wound care were required, but after a month we were finally able to send Coco home overnight, requiring her to return only every second day and eventually only every third day. The hospital staff galvanized around Coco, and Coco, in turn, showed us playful affection. After almost four months of numerous surgeries, pounds of bandage material, and countless staff visits after-hours, I am happy to report Coco is completely healed and loving her life again.

This case reminded me of why I became a veterinarian so many years ago.

Sometimes you can get so caught up in running a business, knowing why you are doing it can become misplaced. Our pets give us so much; it’s so rewarding to give back to them. As a community, we do this for the animals – to make them well, keep them well and, in doing so, bring joy we to that pet’s family.

At McGilvray, our “why” is simple: When she said, “Please help Coco”… we did.

Coco and the team at McGilvray Veterinary Hospital.

Stuart Owen, DVM


McGilvray Animal Hospital | Toronto, ON

Dr. Owen graduated from The Ontario Veterinary College in 1979. He has practiced at McGilvray Veterinary Hospital since then and became a partner at the hospital in 1990. Dr. Owen’s areas of interest include rigid and flexible endoscopy, internal medicine, and dermatology. He is an avid cyclist, golfer, and enjoys the culinary arts.

3 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    I know both your client and Coco. Most of us did not think Coco would survive. Your care & treatment has been truly outstanding. From all of us that love Suzanne & Coco , we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

  2. Doug Dixon says:

    Oh my God Stuart this story made me cry. God bless you, and what you do.

  3. Petra says:

    When I first heard this story being told, I was moved to tears and could not believe that such a tragedy could have such a great and miraculous ending.

    AMAZING work! And to think, Coco is one of the MANY patients whose lives you and your team saves or improves, daily!

    Thank you for all your hard work, Dr. Owen and the McGilvray team!

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