Peg hit the ground fighting – far harder than most Lab pups. She had five legs, a rarity in dogs, and other complications.
Some thought she would not survive. Her physical condition was so serious and such an oddity it was seldom encountered at the NCSU Vet School.
Ellison Armfield, Peg’s breeder and owner, described Peg as having a big heart and thriving from the day she was born in May. She soon could retrieve and swim and was somewhat dominant over her nine litter mates.
Dr. Steven Cogar, Peg’s vet, described his patient this way: “Peg was born with numerous birth defects.”
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Facing a risky procedure filled with uncertainties, Armfield and Cogar decided to proceed with the surgery. Otherwise Peg’s future was not bright.
So why was Peg in such poor shape? What was the cause of this condition? Some speculated she had absorbed a twin. No easy answers were available.
Dr. Steven L. Marks, associate dean and director of veterinary medical services and clinical professor of internal and emergency medicine at the NCSU Vet School, identified Peg’s condition as polymelia. He said:
“This is a rare condition in dogs and cats…This condition has been seen in cattle most frequently…but can happen in many animals including dogs and cats, frogs, deer, poultry, swine.”
His thoughts on the cause leave many questions unanswered. “There are typically not enough cases to publish large studies on cause and outcome.”
Marks’ conclusion: “This is a congenital abnormality and sometimes as may be the case with this patient, multiple abnormalities occur. The challenging question is to find out why…and is it inheritable. Because in most cases we cannot provide the answers, it is recommended to prevent these animals from breeding.”
Armfield, who maintains a farm in Davie County designed for training retrievers, wants Peg “to go as far as she can go” in field work.
Today Peg, who underwent 90 minutes of surgery to remove her extra right rear leg and correct other problems, is going strong and recently retrieved a downed chucker. Cogar plans additional surgical procedures in the future.
Cogar, who is the medical director at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem, anticipates a normal life for Peg. His concerns “are focused around other congenital abnormalities that may be present and keeping her only kidney healthy.”
As for Peg’s nine litter mates, all are normal. They were placed in homes as pets, as gun dogs for hunt tests and for the conformation ring.