It was a lucky day for Otter, a male Dalmatian puppy, when For Otis Sake Dog Rescue in Maryland was contacted on his behalf. Due to a congenital defect, he was not thriving in his breeder’s care and was scheduled for euthanasia in June of 2017. How heartbreaking, to be tossed aside like yesterday’s trash over something potentially treatable as Otter had been diagnosed with Persistent Right Aortic Arch or PRAA. PRAA, also known as a vascular ring anomaly, is when an embryonic aorta fails to regress and becomes wrapped around the esophagus causing a secondary issue known as Megaesophagus. Megaesophagus prevents a dog from holding down food and water. The esophagus initially fills up and the dog subsequently regurgitates, leading to dehydration, malnutrition and eventually death. Repetitive regurgitation also puts a dog at high risk for pneumonia. In the past, Megaesophagus was almost always fatal, but now due to advances in surgical procedures and managed feedings, the underlying condition(s) can be corrected and many dogs can live a normal life.
Once Otter was evaluated, it was determined he was a good candidate for surgery. The veterinarian’s estimate was so high Jona French from For Otis Sake reached out to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and requested a grant. Otter was awarded a $1,000 grant to help offset the cost of the surgery! While Otter waited in foster care for his surgery, his immediate needs were met with managed feedings. He was fed a diet of wet food and soaked dry food as well as water and broth. To keep food down, he ate in an upright position (see pic) and remained upright until the food reached his stomach. Once the food reached his stomach, it could not be regurgitated. Happily, he gained two pounds and the rambunctious puppy he was meant to be finally emerged.
Otter’s surgery was performed by Dr. Kelly Gellasch and he went home with his foster mom to recuperate. In spite of donning the cone of shame, his recovery went well. He was allowed moderate exercise for two weeks and ate a diet of soft food. After a couple of weeks, he went back to the surgeon to have his sutures removed. Otter was surprisingly tolerating food pretty well, fairly quickly after his surgery which made everyone hopeful his surgery was a success.
At the time of the rescue’s final report, Otter was still not 100% recovered, but he was continuing to grow and had learned how to eat upright. The veterinarian and the rescue were hopeful Otter’s condition would continue to improve over time. The rescue reported they were overwhelmed by seeing the community come together to support Otter’s recovery. Throughout Otter’s ordeal, many people followed his story and one couple in particular, who had been rooting for him since day one, adopted him as soon as he was ready. He is a loving and sweet puppy, in spite of the suffering he endured. His forever family is fully prepared to care for him knowing he may very well have special needs for the rest of his life, because that's how you treat family.
Written by Shandra Locken
Edited by Bob Stone