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UCVM students get hands-on experience at emergency pet clinic

Surgeon Aylin Atilla guides 4th-year students as they work on injured small animals

Fourth-year UCVM student Danielle Cyr performed surgery on a 10-year-old chihuahua after she was bitten by another dog. Photos by Fabian Mayer, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Aylin Atilla is an assistant professor of small animal surgery at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. She works with students at the Western Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Centre in Calgary.

Dr. Aylin Atilla treats all sorts of wounds at Western Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Centre. Atilla, who is an assistant professor of small animal surgery at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), says the most serious wounds are usually the result of pets being hit by vehicles or being bitten by other animals.

One such patient is Isabella, a 10-year-old Chihuahua who was bitten by a much larger dog. Isabella’s bite injuries were treated but she lost all blood flow to one of her legs. Three weeks after the attack, she needed to have that limb amputated. The owners had some monetary constraints; however, Atilla says a UCVM student program made the surgery possible.

“Our fourth-year students have funds they can use to put towards a case that’s interesting to them,” explains Atilla.

Program in fourth year funds surgeries

Fourth-year UCVM student Danielle Cyr was doing a clinical rotation at Western Veterinary. When she saw Isabella’s situation, Cyr decided to use her funding to perform the surgery. Atilla says surgery went well and Isabella is now doing fine on three legs.

Atilla says Isabella’s case illustrate how severe wounds can lead to further complications.

“It’s important for pet owners to understand that we can’t predict everything that may happen or the timeline it will happen in,” says Atilla. “We always warn owners that other things may develop, and this was the case with her.”

Assistant professor's advice for pet owners

Atilla also has some advice for pet owners if their dog is injured in a fight with another animal.

"A lot of these animals are hurt and scared so we do get a fair amount of owners that come in and have gotten bitten themselves. Either they were trying to separate the dogs or they pick up their dog that just got bit and their dog is hurt and scared and may bite to protect themselves."

“Make sure you don’t get bitten, too. As much as possible, try to separate them with some inanimate object,” says Atilla. “Then get a towel or a sweater to pick them up in and wrap them up in to bring them to the vet.”

Another of Atilla’s cases is a cat named Delilah. She was hit by a car and required numerous surgeries including a tail amputation.

Cats on the run more likely to encounter trauma

“We recommend keeping cats indoors because outdoors they are more likely to encounter random traumas like getting hit by a car, (getting bit by another animal) or falling from something and breaking a leg,” says Atilla.

Local historian Harry Sanders owns Delilah. He says while Delilah’s injury and recovery period made for a tough couple of weeks, he has learned a lot and is glad to see his cat getting back to normal.

“We’ve learned that she’s going to be in a backyard habitat if she goes outside ever again,” says Sanders. “It’s worth it. We’ve got our cat and she might only be at middle age right now. We might have her for another 10 years.”