Doctors perform reconstructive surgery on puppy

July 27, 2012 2:31:22 PM PDT
A UNC doctor who specializes in intricate human surgeries used his skills to give a dog named Henry a new look and a better life.

Henry is a Bernese Mountain Dog, who at first glance may seem normal. However, on a closer look, his unusual smile is revealed.

"He's beautiful despite the fact that he has this little deformity," said Henry's owner Renate Buie.

Buie said Henry was born in Georgia with a cleft lip. Doctor's initially thought the deformity would lead to his death, but he proved them otherwise.

"After we had taken care of all the rest of the puppies, we realized that it was just the lip and a little bit of the gum and not as severe so we kept him," said Buie.

Buie, a former nurse, carefully cared for Henry by hand feeding him until he could start drinking and eating on his own.

"Now he is just a happy, four-month-old puppy who does everything else that other dogs do," said Buie. "He eats well. He drinks well. He plays hard."

A few months ago, a doctor from UNC Chapel Hill adopted two of Buie's dogs and in the process met Henry. That doctor reached out his colleague, Dr. John Van Aalst, a pediatric plastic surgeon with extensive experience operating on children born with cleft lips.

"He told me about Henry's story and he said where in the world could we operate on a dog that has a cleft lip," said Van Aalst.

That question lead them to N.C. State's College of Veterinary Medicine where Dr. Kyle Mathews jumped at the opportunity to work with Van Aalst.

"He does these all the time," said Mathews. "So, we're always willing to learn, watch and see if we could be doing something better."

Friday afternoon, Henry was wheeled into the operating room where Van Aalst and Mathews worked together to reconstruct his lip. After about two hours, Henry looked like a new dog.  

N.C. State hopes to use a video of the surgery to help teach future vets.

Once Henry recovers from the procedure, he'll be heading back to Georgia, to live out the rest of his live with Buie and the other dogs.

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