Never Give Up: Bella's New Legs

by  Krista Magnifico, DVM

One day I got a call from Animal Rescue, in New Freedom, Pa. At BARCS, (the Baltimore City Animal Shelter) there was a small young white pit bull that had been surrendered to them because her legs were crooked. BARCS stated that they were not capable of the care she needed to “fix her”.

The rescue couldn't take here but they wondered if I could help. I told her to put her in the van and I would take a look at her.

Bella arrived to the clinic a few hours later.

Bella’s original name was “Twister” some kind of cruel joke, so sad, so mean. We changed it immediately. She became Bella. She was about 3 months old. Her bowed front legs spread far apart from her chest and she needed the wide stance to stay upright.

In veterinary medicine we are taught to grade everything by a scale system. On a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the worst, her legs were a 4 plus. She looked like she had ridden a horse cross-continental since the day she was born. It almost defied what you thought was possible.

Her legs were so bowed that after a few days with us we noticed that she was developing sores on the lateral (outsides) of her feet and she could barely bend her legs. She was  pitiful to look at, but, was furious about  tail wagging, kissing, and tried with all of her might to get to you just to say "hello."

Her will to be a love-bug was not stopped by her inability to get anywhere. 

We ran our basic blood work, checked her for any possible cause of congenital problems, took x-rays, and crossed off all of the possible reasons to give up on her. After she came up clear for everything we could test for we began the daily challenge of trying braces, splints, and contraptions to try to get her legs to start to grow back into normal.

Everyone asked me what I thought her diagnosis was? I told them all what I honestly thought was the truth.

I think that she was kept in a cage so small that she couldn’t stand up. 

I say this because she didn’t have any sores on her feet when she arrived. She had no evidence at all that she had walked. It is almost to difficult to imagine that you could be deformed because you weren’t allowed to grow.

She stayed behind the front desk for a few weeks. We often have a foster dog, cat, (or two or three), behind the desk to help socialize them, and help identify any behavioral problems they may have. It's sort of like speed dating. We can learn an enormous amount about a pet when we throw a lot at them quickly.

In that time our clients saw her go through a few generations of splints. 

In the end the one that worked best for her was PVC pipe cut in half length-wise and applied in clam shell fashion to her bandaged legs. This brace helped remind her bones which directions they were allowed to grow in and they gave her the much needed support to stand up and walk.

Within weeks she was almost standing up straight on both front legs. 

She started jumping and running and acting like the puppy she was at heart.

Today the only remnant of deformity remains as a thickened carpus, (she has bigger than normal bony wrists). She is and remains one of our most loved dog, and we use her story many times over in reminding clients that sometimes a truly unbelievable miracle can happen.

Sometimes modern medicine is merely determined don’t give up and try over and over again medicine.

PVC and vetwrap medicine.

The technician who adopted Bella brings her to work every so often for a visit. Bella was at the clinic yesterday demanding attention, begging for some ball play, and in general acting like the puppy she will always remain. She is a bright, happy, energetic girl, with a soft heart, a sweet smile, and a larger than life love for everyone.

Thank goodness we saved this little girl.

Being a part of so many pets lives has taught me a few valuable lessons:
  1. Never give up on a pet with a drive to survive. They will amaze you.
  2. Never walk away from a case because no one else wants to try.
  3. Surround yourself with people who believe as strongly as you do that love can cure the ailments of the world.
  4. Share a story of inspiration at every chance you get. is a resource for pet people to ask questions, share information and help pets find the help and resources their parents need. It is free to join, use, and open to everyone who loves pets. Please visit us and share your pet stories, experiences, and lend a hand to a pet in need.

If you need help from me you can find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.


Krista Magnifico, DVM owns a small animal hospital in northern Maryland, where she practices everyday. She wants to make quality veterinary care available to everyone, everywhere at any time; trying to save the world 1 wet nose @ a time.  Her blog is a diary of he day-to-day life & the animals and people she meets. 

Dr. Krista is also the founder of, free pet advice and assistance.

To contact her, you may leave a comment on her blog, email her or catch her on Twitter or Facebook.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tottsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur  
Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo 
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story 
To Amputate Or Not To Amputate: Heidi's Story
Lessons From A Real-Life Veterinarian 
Charlie's Life Saving Lipoma Surgery  
Understanding and Diagnosing The Limping Dog, Why To Probe The Paw 
Angus' Dog Fight And The Consequences
When To Induce Vomiting And When It's Not A Good Idea  
Abby's Survived Being Run Over By Car But Sucumbed To A Mammary Tumor 
Palmer's Hemoabdomen: Nearly An Unnecessary Death Sentence
A Puppy That Doesn't Want To Eat Or Play Is An Emergency: Aurora's Story
Does Your Dog Like Chewing Sticks? Hank's Story  
Lexi's Bump 
Pyometra: Happy Ending for Pheonix 

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from yo