Skip Navigation

The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the CVM is Working Hard for a Severely Burned Pit Bull’s Survival

Late Wednesday, August 17, 2011 two pit bulls, Vonn and Esperanza, were brought to the Aggieland Health Center by a concerned citizen, Christi Wuthrich, who found the dogs near her home with injuries indicative of severe abuse.

Esperanza's ailments were evident as her whiskers were singed off, and she sustained a fractured pelvis and extensive bite marks across her body. Dr. Barbara Hannes, veterinarian with the Aggieland Animal Health Center, and her team felt confident that they could treat Esperanza in-house. However, Vonn, Esperanza's six-month-old puppy, sustained very severe burns all over his body, possibly exposing him to deadly infections. To give him the best chance at survival, Hannes enlisted the help of Dr. James Barr, clinical assistant professor in emergency and critical care at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), to treat Vonn. Soon afterwards, Terry Stiles, hospital director for the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at CVM, approved treatment for Vonn. Around 10 p.m. Barr and his critical care team of residents and technicians transferred Vonn to the VMTH and began treatment.

Vonn, the abused pitbull

"With any burn victim, the major wildcard is possible infection," Barr explains. "Our foremost concern is taking care of Vonn and his needs. We would like to give credit to Dr. Hannes and thank her for stabilizing Vonn and Esperanza."

Dr. Eleanor M. Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, offered her support to the critical care and soft tissue surgery teams in charge of Vonn's care.

"This is a sad story, but we are grateful that we have the greatest team of specialists and start-of-the-art tools to give Vonn the best chance he has for survival," Green says. "We are also fortunate that Christi Wuthrich, a great Samaritan, came forward to help these abused animals in their greatest time of need."

The Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the CVM is the only teaching hospital in the state of Texas. With the largest group of specialists under one roof in Texas, the VMTH is doing everything they can to give Vonn his life back.

If you would like to help in Vonn's pursuit for survival, please send any donations to the Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund. Any funds raised in excess of the amount required for Vonn's treatment will remain in the Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund to aid in treatment for other animals whose owners cannot afford proper treatments.

The Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund

The Capper & Chris Save the Animals Fund provides financial assistance to pet owners who could not otherwise afford a lifesaving procedure for their animal, especially those pets that might have to be euthanized due to prohibitive financial hardship to the family.

The fund, created by Mrs. Capper Thompson, was established as a memorial to Chris Stehouwer, a Texas A&M University student and animal lover who was killed in a tragic accident.

Update on 8-18-11 at 3 p.m.

The teams at the VMTH changed the name of the dog from Vici to Vonn to represent the Viking name meaning warrior.

Dr. Barr explains that Vonn is in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit. He is comfortable and is being watched by several residents and technicians for any complications that may arise due to any infection risks.

Update on 8-19-11 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Brooke Smith, veterinary resident instructor for emergency and critical care at the CVM, reports that Vonn has made amazing improvements. Yesterday evening, the CVM team decreased his sedatives and he became much more alert. His appetite was significantly increased as he ate an entire bowl of chicken. His attitude also improved dramatically, because as soon as he was finished with his meal he jumped out of his ICU cage and proceeded to run to the park with the CVM team located right outside of ICU.

The CVM team is currently running his blood work to test his protein level. Their hopes are high for his recovery.

Update on 8-19-11 at 3 p.m.

Vonn continues to do well with eating and loves the time he gets to spend outside. All levels look positive. At this time, he does not appear to need any more plasma transfusions.

Update on 8-20-11 at 10 a.m.

Vonn continues to show improvement and his activity level is increasing. The treatment team continues to monitor his progress to ensure continued improvement.

Update on 8-20-11 at 3 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Vonn is doing well. He is having some difficulty regulating his temperature, because of the extent of his wounds. However, for the most part, he is happy and wants to be in someone's lap at all times."

Update on 8-21-11 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Smith explains, "Vonn is still having problems keeping his temperature regulated. But overall, he is back to being a normal puppy who can't figure out why we keep wrapping him up in all of his bandages. He loves his kong filled with treats and still his favorite place to be is in someone's lap."

Update on 8-21-11 at 3 p.m.

Dr. Smith notes, "Vonn is doing great this afternoon. Throughout his hospitalization, he has been receiving multiple IV injections, including antibiotics, pain control, and gastrointestinal protectants. Because he is eating so well, we are now in the process of getting him switched over to oral medications. So far, so good."

Update on 8-22-11 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith explains, "Vonn is holding steady. We're stopping all of his injectable medications this morning, and his appetite is still excellent despite taking multiple oral medications. His wounds are starting to show signs of contraction, which is so exciting for us to see! This means that the surface area of the wounds is less than before and his skin cells are doing their best to create new skin."

Update on 8-23 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Vonn's wounds look great today! His protein levels are holding steady, and he still remains the sweetest dog I have ever met!"

Update on 8-24 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith reports, "Vonn is swiftly becoming the mascot of the Small Animal Clinic. He knows his daily routine perfectly and leads us to the treatment room every morning for his daily wound care. We found out that his new favorite food is scrambled eggs. We think that is why he continues to be optimistic about his anesthesia...because he knows he will get a home cooked breakfast after he wakes up."

Update on 8-25 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith explains, "Vonn continues to amaze us with his positive outlook and fantastic personality. While still a little groggy from his morning anesthesia, he decided to 'leash walk me' around the hallways of the small animal clinic. He made sure to stop and greet every person that walked by. We lovingly coined it the 'Vonn's Day Parade'."

Update on 8-26 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Vonn most definitely has healing super-powers (as advertised by the Super man sticker on his bandage). Each time we remove his bandages, there is a mini celebration about how well his new skin is coming in. Both of his previously burned limbs are so improved that he only required a small bandage over his body today.  Now the hardest part of his treatment is keeping up with him as he dashes around the backyard."

Update on 8-27 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Vonn has officially turned back into a happy, playful, curious puppy. He has discovered toys and has picked a small, brown teddy bear as his favorite playmate. He learned last night what the game of fetch is all about and will retrieve his bear at least twice before he decides to go love on all the people who are oo-ing and awh-ing all over him. No matter how much he likes to play, finding a lap to sit in still is his top priority."

Update on 8-28 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith expresses that, "We reached a huge milestone in Vonn's treatment this weekend. His wounds are healing so well that he no longer requires full anesthesia for his daily wound care. Now, he gets a small amount of sedation for a quick procedure and he is up and eating in no time. We feel pretty strongly that by the end of  this week, he will be at a point that he may not even need bandages. Amazing!"

Update on 8-29 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Barr explains, "We, at the VMTH, appreciate the continued heartwarming support that Vonn has generated. We are amazed at the remarkable progress that Vonn has made, and we think that his recovery is nothing short of a miracle. He continues to be the sweetest, most well-tempered dog, especially under his circumstances. On behalf of the faculty and clinicians at the CVM, it is imperative that we follow Vonn's lead and release him when his condition deems it is appropriate. There is a long list of people interested in taking Vonn in to continue with rehabilitation from his recent injury, after his stay here at the VMTH. Our number one concern is maintaining Vonn's health and happiness while he is here at the VMTH to prepare him for a long life full of continued good health and happiness."

Update on 8-30 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "All I can say is that this place will definitely feel the void when Vonn is ready to head off to his new adoptive home. He is the face that everyone looks forward to seeing when they walk into the hospital. He stops the crowds when his playful puppy personality flourishes while he is chasing his favorite toys. He is absolutely a precious gem.

Update on 8-31 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith recalls, "We are getting so close to the end of Vonn's treatment! His wounds continue to improve everyday and we feel strongly that with only a few more days of healing required, his risk of infection at this point is minuscule. His appetite is voracious, as we would expect from a growing playful puppy. We are ecstatic that despite this long, difficult journey he has so bravely faced, he has gained almost 6 pounds! We are so proud of him!"

Update on 9-1 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Well we have to come's possible that we may have created a full blown attention-hog. It is no longer okay for Vonn to go outside to potty and come right back to his kennel. Every few minutes, his majesty requires a stroll around the hospital to meet and greet and show off his favorite toys and excellent fetching skills. I like to say that he is not spoiled, he is just well loved."

Update on 9-2 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith notes, "We can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel for Vonn's wounds. He still has a few areas that require daily bandaging and topical medications, but these areas are shrinking by the hour. We are hoping that he will be completely free of his bandages by next week, and I know he is counting down the days."

Update on 9-2 at 4 p.m.

Vonn recently visited the college's photography studio to show his Aggie pride for College Colors Day. Below are some images from his photoshoot.

Vonn 1

Vonn 2


Update on 9-3 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "Vonn is doing fantastic! He is eating like a champ! His attitude is also exemplary. Yesterday he was prancing around in his A&M jersey and he did not want to take it off. We are expecting for him to enter a safe and happy home very soon."

Update on 9-4 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith explains, "No big changes with Vonn today, he just continues to bring a smile to everyone's face on a daily basis. Although we all recognize that we made a huge difference in his life by helping him through these past few weeks. He is the one spreading limitless joy to all those around him with his loving and playful spirit. He is, most certainly, a very special boy."

Update on 9-5 at 12 p.m.

Dr. Smith says, "As we come very close to the end of Vonn's stay at the CVM, all of the doctors and staff that have put many hours of time into his care, would like to send a very big and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has donated to Vonn and Esperanza's cause. Because of your support, they will be living a long, happy life in a very loving home. Vonn and Esperanza are extremely lucky to have so many people love them, and I guarantee they are so grateful for each and every one of you!"

Update on 9-6 at 3 p.m.

Yesterday Vonn spent a successful night at his new home. He is continuing to come back to the VMTH for treatment and he should be fully recovered in a few days.