Jack & the Owl Attack!
Little terrier Jack suffered an injury that presented his doctors and family with a true medical mystery. A helpful neighbor led them to the most likely source of the attack. Read on to find out more about this incredible cautionary tale...
Jack is a sweet and spunky 5-year-old Jack Russell Terrier who lives with his family here in Ashburn. One evening in January 2014, Jack went outside for his routine exploration around the backyard and neighboring woods. However, after he spent only a few minutes outside, Jack's family was horrified when he returned to the house with deep wounds along his head and body. Jack's family rushed him to The Life Centre (the emergency veterinary hospital in Leesburg). When the ER vets examined Jack, they found that he had a deep laceration across the left side of his body, he had deep wounds on his head, he had difficulty breathing, and he was in shock. X-rays showed that Jack had bruising of his lungs and a skull fracture. Jack started to show neurological signs, and he became more unstable. The vets were very concerned that he was bleeding internally. They performed an exploratory surgery and found that Jack had bruising of and around his kidneys and liver, but no major vessels had been damaged. The wound on Jack's side was so deep that he had to have a drain placed in it so fluid could drain properly.
The vets at TLC were puzzled at what could have caused Jack's wounds and internal injuries. They were concerned that he was attacked by a coyote or hit by a car, but the injuries didn't quite fit either of those scenarios. Jack's family was also very worried, and they talked with friends and neighbors about his condition and what could have caused the injuries. Then, one neighbor had an idea! She had seen a snowy owl around her house a few times, and she had watched it pick up a rabbit out of her backyard! An attack by a snowy owl fit perfectly with Jack's injuries because he had wounds from the sharp talons, as well as bruising consistent with blunt trauma from being picked up and dropped. Jack's family was shocked; could a snowy owl really attack a Jack Russell?
Many of you may have read about the 2013-14 eruption of snowy owls in the Loudoun County area. These beautiful birds of prey typically live in colder climates in Alaska and Canada, but they may migrate more south to breed. Unlike other owls, snowy owls are diurnal, which means that they hunt during both the day and night. They eat mainly small mammals, but they have been known to hunt animals as big as geese and large hares. They only weigh a few pounds, but they can grasp and fly away with prey several times their own body weight. This is why one could have picked up Jack, who weighs 15 pounds!
Although these owls are beautiful and special to see in this area, the staff at Stream Valley, along with Jack's family, want to warn all families with small dogs to take special precautions. All small dogs (even those that are 10-20 pounds) should not be left outside during the day or night without direct supervision, nor should they be allowed out without a leash, until the owls return to their normal habitat. The snowy owl is expected to be in the area through February and into the month of March (2014). Please be extremely careful with other little friends outside, too, including cats, pet rabbits, and other small mammals. Although Jack is recovering well, others may not be as lucky.
At Stream Valley, Dr. Signorino saw Jack for his recheck examination, after his injuries were repaired and he was released by TLC. At his recheck, he was recovering well, though he was still weak from the attack and had to wear an Elizabethan collar until his injuries were completely healed. He was also on numerous pain medications and antibiotics, and further rechecks would make sure that his liver and kidneys returned to normal.
Please enjoy this majestic owl while it is in the area, but protect your little companions!