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Articles by Dr. Tesluk


Dr. Stephen Tesluk, DVM


Not long ago, on a busy Saturday afternoon, I stopped by Shop n Kart on my way home from the clinic to pick up something for dinner.  I jumped out of my car, and checked my pockets for the list I had scrawled during an earlier phone call with my better half. 

            It took only a few seconds to realize I had once again gone to the trouble of making a list only to leave it behind.

            As I turned towards the store, I ran the list quickly over in my mind, and I figured I was reasonably sure of remembering five of the six items that I was suppose to pick up.

            But when I looked up towards the entrance of the store, I saw something that instantly pushed that list right out of my mind.  Sitting in the parking spot closest to the entrance was a jacked-up long-bed Dodge pickup.

            The bed of this truck was crammed full of pieces of board of various shapes and sizes, jammed in willy-nilly, with pieces of board jutting out at odd angles.  This tangle of wood rose on to two feet over the sides of the truck bed, and it looked like there may have been some nails protruding from some of those boards.

            Perched precariously on top of this nasty jumble was an Australian Shepard.  The poor dog couldn’t even find a stable spot to stand in the stationary vehicle, and as I stared at the sight with my mouth agape, I could not imagine how that dog would manage with that truck barreling down the road.

            I thought about leaving a note on the windshield of the truck about the dangers of transporting a dog in that manner, but I was worried the owner might not see it so I decided to wait until the driver came out.  I was not waiting long when a young man came out of the store and headed for the truck.

            From the look of his clothes he had spent the morning hard at work doing some demolition project, and he had taken his best friend along to keep him company.  He greeted his dog with warm “hey buddy,” and the dog responded by scrambling over the wood, trying to get closer to his owner.

            As I walked up to the driver, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but what came out was,

            “How’s it going? You know your dog is not safe in the back of your truck, he’d better off in the cab with you.”

            The driver looked at me, then looked up at his dog, then looked back at me and said, “Oh yeah, thanks.”

            Then without another word, he lifted his dog out of the truck bed and put him in the cab beside him and drove off.

            Most of us would not consider allowing out human family members to ride in our cars and trucks without wearing safety belts, and not just because it is illegal.

            We are well aware of what can happen to unrestrained occupants in even low speed collisions.  Crash test safety, sophisticated restraint and airbag systems are key selling points in most new cars sold today.

            Too often, however, these safety considerations don’t apply to the four-legged companions that often accompany us in our vehicles.  On any given day while driving around town, I might see three or more cars or trucks carrying dogs.  Some might believe that their dog is less likely to be injured in an accident, but this is not true.  It is common to see broken bones, pulmonary contusions and other internal injuries in dogs that were inside vehicles involved in collisions.  Unrestrained dogs can also become projectiles during a collision and injure other occupants in the vehicle.  One of the most devastating and unfortunately common injuries to dogs that are carried unrestrained in the back of pickup trucks is the brachial plexus avulsion.

            It is ridiculously easy for a dog to get bounced out of the back of a moving pickup.  When this happens the dog will often try to land on its front feet.  Because the dog is moving at the speed of the truck when it plants it feet on the ground, the legs are often pulled violently away from their bodies.

            All of the nerves that run from the spinal chord down the leg enter in a large group known as the brachial plexus under the armpit.  When the leg is distracted away from the body during the fall, the brachial plexus is stretched and torn, resulting in permanent paralysis in the leg and requiring amputation.

            These tragedies can be avoided.  Dog restraints for cars and trucks are available for $20 to $80, and they are easy to use.  Owners need to remember that they never know when they might be involved in an accident, and just like with their human passengers, they need to secure their canine passengers every time they get into the vehicle.

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