Pit Bull Laid Low By Bad Chicken

Rocco, a big, bruising 2-year-old male pit bull, had a handful of problems. Problem No. 1: He was allowed off leash to roam his countryside neighbor-hood at will. Though large and imposing, he had a sweet disposition and the neighborhood children loved him.

Problem No. 2: While he loved people, he didn’t care for other animals, and had multiple run-ins with local wildlife.

This leads us to problem No 3: One day Rocco encountered a very dangerous chicken.

“Doc, I’m not sure what’s wrong with Rocco. He’s not his usual energetic self and seems unsteady on his feet. I’m really worried,” exclaimed Mr. Thompson.

Normally Rocco would be bowling me over by jumping and licking my face. His downtrodden posture and forlorn expression said it all. “When did this start?” I asked.

“While he loved people, Rocco didn’t care for other animals. This leads to Problem No. 3: One day Rocco encountered a very dangerous chicken.”

“I think it started yesterday morning, after…” Mr. Thompson paused. “Well, he was out terrorizing the wild chickens that roam our property, and he found one that had died. By the time I realized what happened, Rocco had ingested half of the bird. Anyway, later that night he started to act funny. I just assumed he had an upset stomach, but now I’m not so sure.”

We ran a barrage of tests and couldn’t find anything wrong with Rocco. Fearing that his condition would worsen, I recommended that he be hospitalized for observation, and I started him on an IV drip. Throughout the night Rocco got worse, and by morning he could no longer get up. The rapid onset of his clinical signs hinted at a disease that I rarely see in practice: Botulism.

The intestinal tract of the dead chicken Rocco ate contained Clostridium botulinum. The toxins produced by this bacterium affect the nervous system and cause paralysis, which quickly spread throughout Rocco’s body. I informed Mr. Thompson of Rocco’s condition and gave him a guarded prognosis.

“Rocco can no longer stand, eat, drink or urinate on his own. If the paralysis affects his diaphragm, he won’t be able to breathe without help. We will continue to give him supportive care by catheter-izing him so that we can remove his urine, and we’ll also provide some nutritional support through his IV. We have to hope for the best.”

Days went by, and I would often sit with Rocco waiting for a sign that told me his muscle control was returning. The Thompson family came every day to visit him, and though he couldn’t move a muscle, Rocco’s eyes beamed with appreciation.

Then it happened. On day seven, Rocco started to lift his head. Though just a little at first, it was a sign that said everything was going to be all right. A few days later, Rocco was headed home and the Thompson family was whole again.

When I last spoke to the Thompsons, they said Rocco was back to his usual self, chasing wild chickens. Hopefully he learned his lesson and won’t eat any dead ones.

Then again, he is a dog, and sometimes you just can’t control the wild side.