Camel saved by Texas A&M veterinary team

Sybil, a 7-year-old dromedary (one-humped) camel.
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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX)- When Sybil the camel arrived at Texas A&M University’s Large Animal Hospital with a serious hip injury, few believed that a successful surgery would be possible. But thanks to the skill of her surgical team, Sybil has become one of the first camels to fully recover from a dislocated hip.

Although doctors at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences treat mostly horses and farm animals, other species are also seen surprisingly often, including a large number of camels that live as pets on Texas ranches.

Sybil, a 7-year-old dromedary (one-humped) camel, arrived at the LAH several weeks ago and she could barely walk on her left hind leg. Radiographs quickly revealed the problem: Sybil’s hip joint was dislocated out of its socket and her femur had moved far away from her pelvis.

“The diagnosis was heartbreaking because the options for treatment are limited and prognosis is poor for adult large animals with this condition,” said Dr. Kati Glass, a clinical assistant professor in large animal surgery. “Basically, the bigger the animal, the harder it is to get the hip back in its socket and the harder it is to keep it there.”

Glass consulted with other veterinary surgeons to discuss Sybil’s predicament, but their recommendations were not promising. The consensus was that there was very little chance for surgery to be successful, meaning that Sybil would likely live a life of discomfort because of the injury and, therefore, would need to be put down.

Sybil’s owner, Dr. Ron McMurry, however, insisted that Glass and her team do whatever they could to try to save Sybil’s life.

“It felt like I was in Las Vegas and I had bet my last hundred dollars,” McMurry said, “but I felt the need to try something.”

McMurry said he may have felt nervous going into surgery, but he was also very optimistic that Glass and her team would be able to fix Sybil’s hip.

Joined by large animal surgery residents Drs. Lauren Richardson and Alyssa Doering, fourth-year veterinary students Shanna Keshvari and Amanda Armendariz, and a team of anesthesia specialists, Glass began Sybil’s surgery.

Just as the team was becoming fearful that their efforts might not be successful, the joint fell back into place with a loud pop.

“It was this huge, celebratory moment,” Glass said. “Then, the even more difficult part started for us as surgeons, because then I knew I had to do something to try to keep it there.”

She secured the joint in place with screws and a stainless-steel cable, but radiographs taken two days after surgery showed that the implants had broken. Thankfully, despite the failure of the cable, Sybil’s hip was still in place.

Glass and her team were thrilled with this success, and glad that Sybil was eating and recovering smoothly.

They also had one other reason to celebrate – Sybil was expecting a baby.

“We knew at the time of surgery that she had been recently bred, but we were focused on saving Sybil’s life at that time,” Glass said. “After surgery, as we saw Sybil recovering, we confirmed that she was still pregnant.”

Sybil is continuing her rest and rehabilitation at the LAH, and Glass said Sybil has been the perfect patient. During her time at the LAH, Sybil used her charm on everyone she met, even influencing veterinary students to throw her a camel-themed baby shower.

For Glass, the McMurry family’s commitment was the critical component that allowed the chance to save Sybil’s life and to learn valuable information about treating other camels with hip dislocations.

“Every time we have the opportunity to take a chance on a procedure like this, we learn something,” Glass said. “What I’ve learned throughout Sybil’s care will help me even more in the next case.”

Sybil will soon return to her ranch in Jasper, Texas, to finishing recovering and have her baby at home.