Dogs competing in Westminster’s various events usually arrive in peak condition, their eyes sparkling, their coats glossy, and their laps around the ring perfect. But with thousands of dogs competing over the course of a few days, some canine competitors are bound to become ill or injured, just like any other athletes.
When they do, veterinarians from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ithaca, New York, and Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, in Stamford, Connecticut, are ready to provide quick medical assessments and provide basic first aid.
Normally, that’s all that’s needed, said Dr. Elisa Mazzafero, the emergency and critical care specialist who was running the makeshift vet clinic Monday. “The majority of things we see, fortunately, are broken nails and muscle strains,” she said.
The veterinary team is equipped to clean small wounds, apply bandages, and treat allergies, among other simple services. “No one has broken a leg, but we can put splints on and control the pain,” Mazzafero said.
They are getting the occasional canine emergency. In previous years, Mazzaferro said, the team had seen a dog with a stomach torsion and another with the infection in the womb, both potentially life-threatening. In these cases, veterinarians on site sent the owners to local emergency hospitals.
Veterinarians sometimes find themselves treating double-legged patients, especially during an agility competition, which requires dogs — and their human handlers — to do so. Navigating the occasional obstacle course. “We’ve seen handling workers die, so they’ll come to us for an ice pack,” Mazzafero said.
Last year, a little girl dropped a box on her foot shortly before she was on the show ring for the junior competition, which is open to children ages 9 to 18. The girl needed stitches, but Mazzaferro cleaned and bandaged the wound so that she could compete first. “She said to her Mom, “I’m in the vet’s tent, they take good care of me,” Mazzafero recalls.
For vets, Westminster is an interesting opportunity to see rare dog breeds, Mazzaferro said. But as a dog owner, she’s admitted: “I always say, ‘I hope the best pug wins.'”
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