Monday, July 30, 2012

Lives Saved: Sammy by Erin Selby

Name: Sammy Sugimura 
Age: 7 1/2 years 
Breed: Pug
Diagnosis: Intestinal Obstruction

Memorial Day weekend is usually a time of relaxation, good food, and fun, family outings. But the Sugimura family was having a very different kind of holiday experience. Sammy, their beloved 7-year old Pug, had not eaten for two days. In addition to the lack of appetite he was vomiting bile.  Extremely worried, Sammy’s family took him to a veterinary clinic they had used in the past. After numerous tests they were unable to find anything conclusive. The Sugimuras took Sammy home fully hydrated, hoping he would get better. Instead, Sammy continued to get worse and began vomiting bile several times a day. After doing some research online, Sammy’s dad Jeff decided to call Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care. “Renee took my call and her genuine concern for Sammy shone through on the phone.  He had started breathing heavily, like a canine version of Darth Vader, and he was getting cold . . .” said Jeff.  Renee had Jeff bring Sammy down immediately for Urgent Care.

Upon presentation Sammy was very weak and had difficulty getting up.  When Dr. Larry Gilman examined him he found Sammy to be very cold with a painful abdomen. Even his breath was cold! It was determined that Sammy was in shock and probably had an intestinal obstruction. Dr. Gilman and his team of technicians immediately sprang into action by using special medical equipment to help heat Sammy up as well as placing him on an IV in order to administer large doses of fluids to combat the shock. Dr. Gilman’s next step was to talk to the Sugimuras about developing a plan of action. Additional diagnostics needed to be performed including blood work in our in-house laboratory, digital x-rays, and possibly an ultrasound. While these tests were being performed Sammy was started on critical care support consisting of fluids, hetastarch, antibiotics, and pain medication in order to combat his severe state of shock and dehydration. Just as Dr. Gilman suspected, his x-rays showed an intestinal blockage in his small intestines which was confirmed with an ultrasound. To complicate matters, Sammy’s blood work revealed that he was in acute kidney failure due to his shock and the length and severity of his illness. 

Dr. Gilman knew that once Sammy’s shock was managed surgery would be necessary in order to remove the blockage and that some of his intestines would have to be removed. Because of Sammy’s critical condition, his chances of surviving surgery were about 50/50. Dr. Gilman delivered the sober news to the anxious Sugimuras. According to Jeff, “I was very impressed with Dr. Gilman, who told us that he would require surgery and that there was a good chance we could lose Sammy due to his already compromised condition.  You never want to hear news like this, but we appreciated his candor and how straight-forward he was.  You can't sugar coat things like this and many try and do this in the same situation.  For my wife and me, it wasn't a difficult decision aside from a costly one.  Sammy is our ‘first child’ and we weren't going to just give up on him.  So we authorized Dr. Gilman to perform the surgery and hoped for the best.”

The next few hours were spent treating Sammy’s shock, dehydration, pain, and kidney failure. As soon as his temperature was back up and his pain was under control it was time to go into surgery. Jeff and his wife came in to see Sammy prior to surgery. This was a very emotional time for them since they knew Sammy might not make it. Dr. Gilman had prepared them and let them know that even if he made it through the surgery, there was a still a risk that Sammy might succumb to his injuries during recovery.  Jeff shared, “We took our 4 1/2 year old son, CJ over to see Sammy before they put him under.  We wanted to say our goodbye's just in case it was the last time we saw him.  Unfortunately, our son didn't really ‘get it’ and was more interested in the other dogs at the hospital and why some of them had cones on their heads.”

The surgery was performed and a 24-inch section of Sammy’s intestine had to be removed since the foreign body had caused severe compromise of the intestinal tissue and its blood supply. Sammy was closely observed throughout the surgery using our specialized equipment for monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, and respiratory rate. The foreign body that was causing the obstruction was removed and revealed to be a mass of human hair. It turns out that Sammy had a bad habit of licking the carpet and over time had accumulated a mass of hair in his intestines. This was difficult news for Jeff’s wife, as she had the long hair in the family. To make matters worse, she had to leave town the day after surgery on a business trip for two weeks. Needless to say it was devastating for her to have to leave Sammy’s side not knowing if he was going to survive or not.

Sammy’s surgery was a success but the next 48 hours were critical to his recovery. He needed to stay at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center in order to receive post-operative critical care so we could monitor his kidneys and the healing of his intestines. 24-hour care from highly trained veterinary technicians was absolutely essential during this sensitive window of time.  Sammy was in Patient Care for three days. He was making a very good recovery – his vitals looked good, he was responsive to treatment, and was getting happier every day. The only problem was he wouldn’t eat. Dr. Gilman discussed the situation with Jeff and they agreed to see how Sammy would do at home on medication and a bland diet. Since all of his vitals looked positive and proper nutrition is important for the intestines to heal, home treatment was the next logical step in Sammy’s recovery. Their decision was the right one. Once he was back in the familiar comfort of his own home, Sammy began to regain his appetite. 

Dr. Gilman was in contact with Jeff daily for the next few days in order to make sure Sammy was still on the right track. When the tough little pug returned two weeks later for his suture removal he was completely back to normal and had made a full recovery! Sammy is back to his favorite activity of running around outside chasing the birds and squirrels, his appetite is as healthy as ever, and loves playing with his best human friends – the Sugimura’s two children CJ and Jace!
Jeff had the following to say after Sammy’s harrowing ordeal, “If you looked at him today, you'd never know he went through all that he did.  And that's exactly how I like it.  We're so fortunate to be able to have more time with him and that he was such a great fighter.  It also was another reminder about how you can't take each day with others for granted (or take others for granted) because you'll never know when you might face losing those that you love.  I have to say that everyone that I came into contact with was courteous, polite and you could tell that they really cared about the animals as though they were family (Sammy HAD become family after all he went through as most of the staff recognized him by the time we left!).  The professionalism and kindness exhibited throughout the clinic is stellar. . . Dr. Gilman was a breath of fresh air as a doctor.  He is a straight shooter, gets right to the point and doesn't sugar coat anything (which I really appreciate).  Throughout the process, Renee would sit down with me and go over the bill and specific charges so that we always knew where we stood.  Was it cheap? No.  But what kind of quality care is?  They were very straight-forward with the financial side of it and I very much appreciated it.  Dr. Gilman saved our Sammy's life and I am truly thankful for everything that he and the rest of the staff did for our dog.  Our kids are thrilled to have Sammy back at home safe (OK, our 2 year old has no idea what happened and what Sammy had been through, but they're still best friends). As far as I am concerned, Dr. Gilman is Sammy's new vet and the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center has gained a new client in our family.”

The staff and doctors at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care work together as a team in order to provide the best possible care for your pet and for you! Life does not slow down for emergencies but we are here to help you and your pet when you need it the most.


  1. I loved reading this story with it's happy ending--I am so thankful that the Sugimura's found Bishop Ranch and got Sammy there in time. Having Pugs and knowing Dr.Gilman and the other fabulous vets and staff at Bishop Ranch, this story was particularly interesting to me! I love Bishop Ranch and the excellent care they provide to my pugs!

  2. I too love Bishop Ranch. I have taken my pets to Dr. Utchin and he has always been straight forward, considerate, and loving to my pets. A few months ago, my son called me about his chocolate lab. We had to take her into the emergency clinic. They were so thorough and diagnosed the problem. Even though they did have to do some tests, they didn't go overboard. One step at a time seemed to be "the ticket". My son's dog is doing well, and my thirteen year old shepard/lab mix is still kicking! The staff is always polite and helpful. I always recommend Bishop Ranch every time I have the opportunity. Nice story about the Pug!