Vets Help Puppy Who Can't Eat Normally

Posted February 16, 2008 3:47 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2008 11:07 p.m. EST

— Staff at the Oxford Veterinary Hospital are raising money to get surgery for a beagle puppy whose cleft palate prevents him from eating and drinking normally.

Rescuers brought Kobe to the animal hospital when he was three days old. His mother, a stray beagle, had rejected him, and staff soon learned why: He has a cleft palate.

The congenital defect created an opening in the roof of Kobe's mouth, preventing him from eating or drinking normally.

That kept Kobe – described as a vocal, "very happy-go-lucky pup" who loves people – from growing as quickly as his litter mates, said Tina Johnson, a nurse at Oxford Veterinary Hospital.

"By this time, Kobe was a happy, energetic puppy, despite his problem. And he had his caretakers' hearts wrapped around his little paw," Johnson wrote in a ad. "So they resolved to try to do what they could to ensure that Kobe survives and has a full life."

A surgeon volunteered to create a special feeding tube to keep Kobe comfortable.

"He sees the tube and knows it's feeding time," Johnson said. When he is at the hospital all day, "every time he sees a syringe, he starts barking and talking," she added.

Veterinarians with North Carolina State University examined Kobe and determined that he needs a surgery to correct his cleft palate. The surgery must be performed within the next three months, because doctors are concerned about Kobe's bone growth.

The surgery, however, will cost approximately $5,000, more than the doctors at Oxford Animal Hospital can afford.

So, hospital staff have been waging a fund-raising campaign for Kobe's surgery. After a rummage sale Saturday, they've raised about $2,500, Johnson said.

"The outpouring of support from the local residents here in Oxford has been amazing," Ann Saccocio, with the Oxford Veterinary Hospital, said. "We have also received donations from as far as Titusville, Florida; California; Idaho and Virginia.

"We are so grateful for everything everyone has done, but we still have a long way to go."

Saccocio said Johnson deserves a lot of credit for Kobe's survival so far.

"One of our nurses (Johnson) ... has actually been caring for him all this time. Of course, by doing that, she’s fallen in love with him," Saccocio said. "We’re trying everything we can, because our doctors can’t do the surgery."

Within three weeks of the surgery, doctors will know whether or not it succeeded and if Kobe will be able to eat normally. Johnson said she is confident Kobe will pull through.

"We know it's going to work. This guy's so full of life, it's got to work," Johnson said.

The hospital, at 631 Roxboro Road, will host an auction for the next two months to raise money for Kobe's surgery. Items including autographed Nascar tires and children's toys are up for sale.

Anyone interested in donating to Kobe's surgery can call the Oxford Veterinary Hospital at 919-693-6911 or 336-504-8290.