Back of the Yards resident Jesus Segoviano got help for Whiskey, his 15-year-old chihuahua mix through PAWS Chicago's Pet Help Hotline. Credit: Provided

BACK OF THE YARDS — Jesus Segoviano couldn’t afford to treat his dog, Whiskey, when the pooch got sick this February — but a local shelter stepped in to help.

Whiskey, 15, developed painful dental problems, his face becoming swollen and infections forming. His age made him high risk. Segoviano had lost his job, so he looked for free clinics that could help, but the ones suggested to him were too far, didn’t respond quickly enough as Whiskey’s symptoms worsened or required care Segoviano couldn’t afford.

That’s when Segoviano reached out to PAWS Chicago’s Pet Help Hotline, which connects Chicagoans with resources for their pets. The shelter, which recently opened an expanded medical center in Little Village, also provides low-cost medical care in the area and helps low-income residents when their furry family members are in need.

PAWS veterinarians diagnosed Whiskey with severe infections caused by advanced dental disease. The infections could have been fatal.

The shelter’s team performed a three-hour emergency surgery on Whiskey the same day the vets examined her, said Yasmine Pacheco, PAWS Chicago’s community outreach senior manager. The surgery had to be “done as soon as possible,” Pacheco said.

The team at the Little Village center removed Whiskey’s infected teeth and repaired an oronasal fistula he’d developed. The fistula was an opening in the roof of his mouth to his nasal passageway, an issue commonly seen in gum disease that can lead to further medical issues, PAWS experts said.

“I was really grateful because I knew something was going on [with him], and he ended up having an infection,” Segoviano said. “If I ended up not taking him in, I feel like he would have ended up passing away.”

Pacheco said pets ideally should visit the vet every year to get their teeth checked and cleaned just as humans do.

“But a lot of the time those are really expensive procedures, especially in private clinics, veterinary clinics. So a lot of the time we see that in older pets because they don’t get their yearly dentals and things like dental disease will develop,” Pacheco said.

Whiskey also was neutered during his treatment. Because of Segoviano’s strained finances, he qualified to receive free care and medicine for Whiskey.

PAWS’ Pet Help Hotline is one of the organization’s five Community Outreach programs. It also has programs focused on building relationship and providing care — including spay and neutering services — with Chicagoans, giving away food and supplies through its pet food pantry and providing vet care, among other services.

The programs work together to remove barriers to pet care and address specific problems related to pet overpopulation on the South Side, Pacheco said.

“There haven’t been veterinary resources for decades in these areas,” Pacheco said. “There are more animals than the community can support.” 

With Whiskey on the mend, Segoviano said he is focusing on finding a job. He said he hopes more affordable pet care, like what PAWS provides, becomes more available to South Side communities.

“It was just by the grace of God that they ended up calling me back, you know?” Segoviano said. “The [representative] realized, she said, ‘It sounds serious, I’m going to do my best to get you a close appointment.’ And she did within a few days. Thank God she did.”

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