Cornwall cat wins national award after miracle survival
18 December 2018
Dexter crowned PDSA Pet Survivor of the Year after airgun attack
A miracle cat from Cornwall who survived a horrific attack when he was shot through the mouth has won a national vote to be crowned PDSA Pet Survivor or the Year 2018.
Two-year-old Dexter was deliberately shot in July this year, leaving him fighting for his life. The pellets went through his mouth leaving his jaw fractured. Dexter also had an exit wound in the back of his neck and metal shrapnel embedded throughout his head. Surviving this shocking act of cruelty was a miracle in itself, according to vets, but Dexter continued to amaze everyone throughout the months of his long recovery.
The plucky puss is now well on the way to full recovery and has received the coveted Pet Survivor title from the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA. The award recognises his survival spirit, his owner’s dedication, and the skill and expertise of all the vets and vet nurses who helped to save his life.
Dexter and his owners have received a trophy, certificate and a luxury Christmas pet hamper, to help him celebrate the festive season at home with his family.
Reactions to the award
Dexter’s owner, Ruth Lewis, said: “I entered Dexter in the competition thinking it would be a nice way to recognise his incredible bravery, but I never expected him to win! I’m over the moon, it’s an amazing end to what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. Thanks so much to our vets, and to PDSA for recognising our little miracle cat like this.”
Vet Jemma Gough, said: “The team at Animal Vets are all so proud of Dexter and how well he has done. Throughout the entirety of his treatment he has been a pleasure to care for, and the brilliant outcome we are seeing pays homage to his resilience, and the true dedication of his owners. Dexter is a real character, and well deserving of this recognition. I’m sure his Christmas hamper will go down a treat!”
PDSA Senior Vet Sean Wensley said: “After an uncertain start in life Dexter found a loving home, only to suffer at the hands of those who mindlessly inflict harm on people’s pets. It is thanks to the skill and dedication of veterinary professionals that Dexter’s fortunes are, once again, turned around. As ever, this was in partnership with his committed and caring owners and, between them, they have achieved this award-winning recovery, giving him the chance of many happy years ahead.”
Cheeky Dexter had a rough start in life, he went through several homes and ended up on Gumtree but was eventually taken in by National Animal Welfare Trust. At eight months old he finally found his forever home with Ruth and John Lewis, who adore him.
In July this year, Dexter, now two-years-old, didn’t come home one night. At first his owners weren’t unduly worried, but when he failed to arrive for breakfast the next day they became increasingly concerned.
Later that day a cry was heard in the lounge – it was Dexter, who’d dragged himself home and through the open conservatory door. But his leg was at an odd angle, he was covered in blood, icy cold and struggling to breathe. Living in a rural area, they initially suspected he could have been mauled by a fox or badger. He was wrapped in a blanket and rushed straight to the vets, but Ruth was terrified that he would die in her arms.
Once stabilised at Animal Vet Services, x-rays revealed the horrific truth – Dexter had been deliberately shot, possibly with an airgun, through the roof of his mouth. Jemma Gough, a vet at Animal Vet Services in Hayle, said: “Dexter’s lower jaw was fractured and an exit wound was visible at the back of his neck, while other pieces of metal ’shrapnel’ were scattered through his head and neck. He wasn’t even able to walk, so how he’d dragged himself home was a mystery.”
He stayed at the vets for several days but his owners were warned it was still touch-and-go. Even if he survived his initial injuries he may never be able to walk again. He went to a specialist to have a fixator attached to his jaw, which was in place for nearly five weeks meaning his owners had to hand feed him several times a day. But with plenty of care and regular vet visits, Dexter slowly started to improve and eventually regained full use of his legs.
However, the hole caused by the pellet remained in the roof of Dexter’s mouth, leaving it open to his nasal passages. This made eating and drinking difficult, and left him at risk of pneumonia caused by food and water getting into his airways. In late November Dexter was referred to Cave Veterinary Specialists to have what is hoped to be his final surgery. A ‘transposition flap’ of healthy tissue was placed to close the large hole between his mouth and nose. . Ruth had to tube feed Dexter six times a day for two weeks to allow the flap to take properly.
Ruth Lewis said: “Incredibly, Dexter is now set to make a full recovery, and to look at him you’d never know anything had happened. It’s been a terrifying ordeal for all of us, we’re still recovering emotionally from what happened, but Dexter’s patient determination has been an inspiration. We’re amazed at how well he’s healed and recovered, he’s our little miracle cat!”
The competition was open to pets treated for a life-threatening illness or injury by a vet in the UK between 1 January 2017 and 31 August 2018. Four finalists were selected by a judging panel, which included James McVey from The Vamps, and PDSA Senior Vet Sean Wensley. A public vote was then held to decide the winner.
The other three finalists were:
- Brandy the Staffie from South East London – had an 11-inch (28cm) stick lodged through her throat and chest after a game of fetch went disastrously wrong.
- Maximus the grey cat from Fife in Scotland – involved in a suspected hit-and-run accident, leaving his skull and jaw broken in two.
- Skittles the ginger cat from North West London – was found impaled on railings, but was miraculously alive and conscious.
The PDSA Pet Survivor Awards 2018 are supported by Animal PoisonLine, a 24-hour advice line for owners who are concerned that their pets have come into contact with something potentially poisonous. It is run by the UK's only animal poison centre and is a triage service which only directs owners to their vets if treatment is needed (charges apply). More information is available at www.animalpoisonline.co.uk