Here’s how PAWS Chicago helped a sick puppy recover for free

BACK OF THE YARDS – Jesus Segoviano couldn’t afford to treat his dog Whiskey when the pooch fell ill this February – but a local animal shelter stepped in to help.

Whiskey, 15, developed painful dental problems, his face swelled and infections developed. His age put him at high risk. Segoviano had lost his job, so he looked for free clinics that could help, but the ones suggested to him were too far away, didn’t respond quickly enough when Whiskey’s symptoms worsened, or required treatment Segoviano couldn’t afford.

At that point, Segoviano contacted the PAWS Chicago Pet Assistance Hotline, which provides resources for Chicago residents to care for their pets. The shelter, which recently opened an expanded medical center in Little Village, also provides affordable medical care in the area, helping low-income residents when their furry family members are in need.

PAWS vets diagnosed Whiskey with serious infections caused by advanced dental disease. The infections could have been fatal.

The shelter’s team performed emergency three-hour surgery on Whiskey the same day the vets examined her, said Yasmine Pacheco, senior manager of PAWS Chicago’s Community Outreach. The operation must be “performed as soon as possible,” said Pacheco.

The team at Little Village center removed Whiskey’s infected teeth and repaired an oronasal fistula he had developed. The fistula was an opening in his roof of the mouth to his nasal passage, a problem common with gum disease that can lead to further medical problems, PAWS experts said.

“I was really grateful because I knew something was going on [with him], and he ended up with an infection,” Segoviano said. “If I hadn’t picked him up at the end, I felt like he would have died.”

Pacheco said that ideally, pets should go to the vet every year to have their teeth checked and cleaned just like humans.

“But often these are really expensive procedures, especially in private clinics, veterinary clinics. We see this a lot in older pets because they don’t get their yearly dental checkups and develop things like dental disease,” Pacheco said.

Whiskey was also neutered during his treatment. Due to Segoviano’s strained finances, he qualified for free nursing and medicine for whiskey.

The PAWS Pet Help Hotline is one of the organization’s five community outreach programs. It also has programs focused on building relationships and providing care — including spaying and neutering services — with Chicago residents, giving away food and supplies through its pet feed store, and providing veterinary care, among other services.

The programs work together to remove barriers to pet care and address specific issues related to pet overpopulation on the South Side, Pacheco said.

“There have been no veterinary resources in these areas for decades,” Pacheco said. “There are more animals than the community can support.”

With Whiskey on the mend, Segoviano said he’s focused on finding a job. He hopes that more affordable pet care like that provided by PAWS will become more available to South Side communities.

“It was only by the grace of God that they finally called me back, you know?” Said Segoviano. “The [representative] recognized, she said, “It sounds serious, I will do my best to get you an appointment in a timely manner.” And she did in just a few days. Thank god she did.”

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