No one really knows what happened to Toto, a handsome tan and white boxer from Brockton. All his owner knows for sure is that the dog got into a bloody scuffle with another animal in a Braintree backyard, and came home stinking of skunk.
Toto’s face was brutally slashed during the encounter, and within days of the incident, a large swath of his skin had become so badly infected that it died and started to slough off. The five-year-old dog was not only in rough shape. His very life was in danger.
That’s when his owner, Humberto Mundo-Rivera, brought him to the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. When Toto arrived at the facility last week, a team of critical care veterinarians immediately started administering topical medications and systemic antibiotics in an effort to deliver a knock-out punch to the bacteria that were ravaging the dog’s face.
Once they stabilized Toto, it was time for renowned veterinary reconstructive surgeon Dr. Mike Pavletic to work his magic. And so on Thursday, September 22nd, Dr. Pavletic–a plastic surgeon who works on animals–put Toto’s face back together again, using a technique called a transposition skin flap, whereby a u-shaped incision is made in a patch of skin adjacent to the gaping wound that is to be sutured, enabling the “borrowed” skin to fold over the open wound while still remaining partially attached to the body. In Toto’s case, Dr. Pavletic painstakingly took a flap of skin from the side of the dog’s neck to reconstruct his forehead and the gaping area behind his eye.
Dr. Pavletic needed 50-60 sutures in three long rows to reconstruct the skin on the left side of Toto’s face, and all indications are that the surgery was successful. A 30-year veteran of such procedures, Dr. Pavletic said that as bad as Toto’s injuries were, he has seen others that were far gruesome. “When you work at a referral hospital like Angell,” he explained, “you usually see the worst of the worst.”
Sporting an Elizabethan collar to prevent him from dislodging his carefully crafted stitches, Toto was back at Angell on Monday to have his drain removed. He remains on antibiotics and pain medication, and it will be at least 10-14 days before his sutures can be taken out. But the dog whose face fell off is looking pretty darn good in spite of his dicey ordeal, and Dr. Pavletic and the Angell staff are optimistic that he’ll make a complete recovery.
The MSPCA gratefully accepts donations to its Pet Care Assistance fund, to help dogs like Toto.