Just like people, many pets face adversity. And just like people, animals often depend on the help of others to get through those difficult times. One such pet is Dobby, a 4-year-old Chihuahua who has a new look and a brighter future thanks to her “mom,” Michal, and Eastown Veterinary Clinic.
Michal says she adopted Dobby from Project Hope Rescue in Texas, in March of 2018. “I’ve always been a big dog person, but I saw her picture and fell in love with her.”
What made Dobby’s picture different than others was a severe defect in her jaw. Dobby’s jaw was obviously damaged, with her lower jaw hanging down. While Dobby was born with a defect that gave her an extensive overbite, she also suffered trauma at some point.
“Her jaw was severely fractured when they found her, but they weren’t exactly sure how it happened,” Michal said. “She was really skinny when we first got her. Not sure how long she had been on the streets, but it was obvious that she couldn’t eat well and was pretty much starving.”
To correct the damage to her jaw, Dobby was taken by the rescue team to a veterinarian for surgery. A pin was placed in her jaw to help heal the fracture, and several follow-up procedures were performed to correct her jaw.
It was after these surgeries that Michal was able to adopt Dobby, with the understanding that Dobby’s jaw was going to need more work. “We were informed that it would probably be just one more surgery to remove the pin in her jaw, but the pin actually did more damage than it helped.,” Michal says. “She naturally had a pronounced overbite, but the jaw damage was much more extensive than we originally thought.”
Normal jaw x-ray
Dobby’s fractured jaw x-ray
Ultimately, the pin placed in the jaw failed at correcting the problem, and a new solution was needed. Michal brought Dobby to another veterinarian, who then attempted a different procedure, using wires to stabilize the jaw along with the pin.
Michal said she dreaded taking Dobby in for surgeries and would get very stressed a few weeks before each one. “I think my biggest worries were that she wouldn’t make it through the surgery, she wouldn’t recover afterward, or the pain would be unbearable for her if she did,” Michal said. “I also worried that there was some avenue or option that I was missing or hadn’t considered. I just didn’t want to fail her.”
After several failed attempts at fixing Dobby’s jaw, Michal was advised to contact Dr. Lynn Happel, who specializes in complicated veterinary dentistry at Eastown Veterinary Clinic.
Dr. Happel said her first impression of Dobby was that she was adorable. After learning more about what Dobby had gone through, however, Dr. Happel says she began to question whether Dobby’s jaw could be repaired.
“I was skeptical about the ability of the fracture to heal due to the fact that it had been present for months,” she explains. “The rescue vet had put bone pins down the mandibular canals which may have killed the nerve and blood supply to the lower jaw, inhibiting the bone’s ability to heal.
But knowing Dobby deserved a chance at a normal life, Dr. Happel decided to try and repair the jaw. Dobby’s first surgery involved removal of the pins and wires and placement of a jaw splint.
Splint placed on bottom jaw
The splint consisted of dental wires wrapped throughout the jaw to help stabilize the fracture and prevent movement during healing. An acrylic-like material was then placed over the top of the wires, protecting Dobby’s tongue and gums and adding stability to the structure.
Dobby was sent home to recover. Only time would tell whether the splint would work.
Unfortunately Dr. Happel’s fears came true, and due to the extensive damage done during the initial surgeries, the jaw would not be able to heal, despite the use of the splint. Having exhausted all other options, Dr. Happel recommended a mandibulectomy, or removal of the bottom part of the jaw.
Dobby’s profile, after removal of much of the bottom jaw.
“She is very food motivated and both vets felt that she would be a great candidate for the mandibulectomy,” Michal says. “We didn’t have a whole lot of other options. We’d exhausted all the other forms of treatment and this was the last thing we could try.”
As extreme as the procedure sounded, Michal says she was shocked at how quickly Dobby bounced back after the surgery. “She was eating her food (canned) almost normally the same day as pick up.”
Adapting to life without a bottom jaw seems like it would be a challenge, but Michal says Dobby has done great. “Her tongue hangs out more, but that’s about it. I’ve fed her canned food made into a soup from day one, and her overbite has helped her get used to basically lapping up her food, so it wasn’t a great difference.”
While many had given up hope for Dobby’s recovery, Michal and Dr. Happel knew she deserved a chance at a great dog life.
“I’m just really glad we found Dr. Happel,” Michal says. “She cared about what was best for her and went out of her way to keep performing procedure after procedure on her until we could find something that not only worked, but also would give her the best quality of life.”
Dr. Happel says she anticipates a remarkable future for Dobby, thanks to her appetite. “Because she is so food motivated, I think her prognosis is great,” she says.
Michal says Dobby’s life is close to becoming as normal as possible and foresees snuggles, squirrel chases and lots of naps in Dobby’s future. “She’s such a happy little thing and I’m happy that we’ve been able to give her a second chance at life,” Michal says. “I love her.”
Dobby, after recovering from surgery
Dobby and her mom Michal enjoying life together