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Shadow's story of survival

Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists helps shar-pei lost on beach for 45 days

A clifftop dog walk on the Dorset coast nearly turned into tragedy for a pet and his owners, when Shadow, an 18-month-old shar-pei, slipped his harness and went missing. The Whiting family had almost given up hope of seeing their beloved pet again when holidaymakers found him on the beach 45 days later. In an amazing feat of survival Shadow must have fallen 500 ft from the clifftop, and despite having a broken leg, had staved off hunger by eating sticks, stones and seaweed.

Shadow was in a very poor condition, and had to undergo surgery with his local vet to remove some of the material from his stomach. His fracture had healed badly so his owners, who were already struggling to pay his veterinary fees, set about trying to raise the money for Shadow to see a specialist orthopaedic surgeon. Shadow’s owner Amber Whiting set up a ‘Just Giving’ page for donations towards the cost of the surgery that he needed to save his leg.

When the surgeons, at Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists (SCVS) in Ringwood, heard about how Shadow had survived against all the odds they immediately offered to perform the surgery at a reduced price. Shadow has since been operated on by Phil Witte one of the specialist orthopaedic surgeons at SCVS.

Phil Witte said: “It is a pleasure to get involved in Shadow’s recovery following this extraordinary story of survival against the odds. Realigning the fractured bone was complicated because it had healed in an unusual orientation, but I was pleased with the end result of the surgery and hope Shadow will now have an uncomplicated convalescence and a return to normal function on the limb.”

                                                                          Before Shadow's limb surgery at SCVS


                                                                                   After his limb surgery at SCVS


Shadow is now glad to be back home with his family, receiving lots of fuss and attention, and is well on the road to recovery from his ordeal. The Whiting family are extremely grateful for everyone’s help, from the holidaymakers who found Shadow, their local Vet practice Bredy Veterinary Centre who operated on his stomach, to everyone who generously donated money and of course SCVS for fixing his leg.

Amber Whiting said: “It's been a very long and emotional few months. We were absolutely devastated when he went missing at those cliffs. We and many other volunteers, including the coastguard, DogLost volunteers, and drone owners, searched for over a week. What followed was an awful experience because we didn't know what happened to him. The not knowing if he was alive, living out in the wild, or stolen to a gang of dog thieves was horrendous. I spent many nights crying and my children were in a terrible state.”

“When we had the call to say he'd been found we couldn't believe it. He was so skinny my husband didn't recognise him. Thank god the RSPCA's Ken had scanned him. We quickly went from the massive high of finding him to the shock and upset of seeing just how much weight he had lost and the state of his leg. He'd been living on stones, twigs and seaweed. He had to have a lifesaving stomach operation, even now we're still building up his strength.”

“Now that his leg has been fixed we feel he can truly start to heal up and get well again. We are so grateful that he’s been given so much love and support from people. Thank you so much for helping us with Shadow.”

Harry Scott Clinical Director at SCVS said: ”Specialist treatment can be expensive, but when we heard about Shadow and his owners’ predicament we were more than happy to offer our services at a reduced cost. As a referral hospital we see a lot of critically ill pets, but Shadow’s will to survive impressed all of the team at SCVS.”

Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists (SCVS) is a state-of-the-art specialist veterinary referral hospital based in Ringwood, Hampshire. SCVS has specialists in the fields of orthopaedics, anaesthesia, cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology and neurosurgery, diagnostic imaging, oncology, soft tissue surgery and sports medicine and rehabilitation.

What the limb procedure involved: Surgery was performed via a medial approach to the proximal tibia. The fracture was identified within a hypertrophic callus and the two tibial bone segments were separated using a periosteal elevator. The bone ends had undergone significant remodelling, so they were ostectomised using a cylindrical blade of 18mm diameter. The medullary canals of the proximal and distal segments were re-established using drill bits driven from the ostectomised surfaces. The ostectomised surfaces were mated and the bone appropriately realigned. Pre-placed Kirschner wires, placed according to pre-operative measurements, were used to ensure correct alignment of the tibia. Autogenous cancellous bone graft was acquired from the contralateral proximal humerus and placed at the site. Fixation was with a medially-applied 3.5mm TPLO plate and screws. A long cranial 2.7mm dynamic compression plate was placed spanning the length of the tibia by minimally invasive technique, with three screws in the proximal fragment and three screws placed more distally through stab incisions.