By Jessica Lozano
This spring marks the five-year anniversary of an accident that happened to my dog. The accident has changed forever the way I drive with him in my car. I hope my cautionary tale will help keep other dogs safe from a seemingly innocuous habit.
Mason always hated the car.
My dog Mason is a Jack Russell Terrier, a breed notorious for being energetic. He gets especially worked up when he’s being driven in my car: pacing, whining, and generally being distracting.
I found that having the window open and letting him stick his head out seemed to quiet his anxiety in the car and it became his norm. At the time of his accident, I had owned Mason for three years, and every time we drove, he was “bat dog,” ears flapping in the wind.
On this particular afternoon, we were on our way home from running a few small errands. Mason was in the back seat of my small coupe, stretching to get his head out the window between my headrest. I mention this detail to paint the picture that what happened next was not because he was hanging halfway out the backseat window.
As I slowed to approach a stop light, I heard an unmistakable yelp. Turning to see how Mason could have hurt himself in the back seat, I found it empty. I was immediately panic stricken and caught sight of him in the side-view mirror disappearing behind my car.
I threw the car into park, hopped out, and managed to catch him before he continued running down the street. Back in the car, we sped off to Bay Street Animal Hospital to have him examined.
When we arrived, Dr. Malgorzata Banaszek-Lepkowski immediately examined him and found several injuries. He had road rash in several places, a deep wound on his foot, and most importantly, his tail was dislocated.
What people may not realize is that the tail is an extension of the spine and is home to several vertebrae and is packed with nerve endings. With his tail dislocated and nerves damaged, he no longer had any anal tone, meaning he did not have control over his anal sphincter.
The prognosis was guarded, and Dr. Banaszek-Lepkowski warned me that he may need to be in diapers for the rest of his life.
A slow and steady recovery
After a few nights in the hospital that included a course of steroids, pain medications, and intravenous fluid support, Mason was discharged.
At home he continued to have strict cage rest and over the next few weeks he slowly recovered sensation in his hind end and is diaper free. Unfortunately, there was no way for him to recover use of his tail, and it hangs limply at all times. Amputation was discussed but we opted not to put him through a difficult procedure, as it was causing him no distress.
Since that day I always keep Mason buckled to a collar seat belt or in his travel crate in the back seat. I hope his story will encourage fellow dog owners to be cautious when letting their pets peek out the car windows. I am thankful that I was lucky his injuries were not more severe, as he could have easily been struck by another car or more seriously injured had my car been moving at a higher rate of speed.