A miracle cat who survived a horrific attack when he somehow stumbled home after being shot through the mouth has been crowned pet survivor or the year.
Two-year-old Dexter was deliberately shot in July, leaving him fighting for his life.
The pellets went through his mouth leaving his jaw fractured while he also had an exit wound in the back of his neck and metal shrapnel embedded throughout his head.
Vets said that surviving this shocking act of cruelty was a miracle in itself, but the plucky puss has continued to amaze everyone throughout the months of his long recovery.
And the miracle moggy has now received the coveted Pet Survivor title after a public poll held by veterinary charity, PDSA.
The charity says the award recognises his survival spirit, his owner’s dedication, and the skill and expertise of all the vets and vet nurses who helped to save his life.
Dexter, who was taken in at eight months old by Ruth and John Lewis of Redruth, Cornwall, was found badly injured after he dragged himself home and through the open conservatory door.
His leg was at an odd angle, he was covered in blood, icy cold and struggling to breathe.
Ruth, 54, wrapped him in a blanket and rushed him straight to the vets, but said she was terrified that he would die in her arms.
After he was stabilised x-rays showed he had been deliberately shot with an airgun, through the roof of his mouth.
His lower jaw was fractured and an exit wound was visible at the back of his neck, while other pieces of metal ’shrapnel’ were scattered through his head and neck.
He wasn’t even able to walk, so vets said it was a complete mystery how he’d been able to drag himself home.
He stayed at the vets for several days but his owners were warned it was still touch-and-go and even if he survived he may never be able to walk again.
Dexter had a fixator attached to his jaw, which was in place for nearly five weeks meaning his owners had to hand feed him several times a day.
But with plenty of care and regular vet visits, Dexter slowly started to improve and eventually regained full use of his legs.
However, the hole caused by the pellet remained in the roof of Dexter’s mouth, leaving it open to his nasal passages.
This made eating and drinking difficult, and left him at risk of pneumonia caused by food and water getting into his airways.
In late November Dexter was then referred to Cave Veterinary Specialists to have what is hoped to be his final surgery.
A ‘transposition flap’ of healthy tissue was placed to close the large hole between his mouth and nose.
Ruth then had to tube feed Dexter six times a day for two weeks to allow the flap to take properly.
She said: “Incredibly, Dexter is now set to make a full recovery, and to look at him you’d never know anything had happened.
“It’s been a terrifying ordeal for all of us, we’re still recovering emotionally from what happened, but Dexter’s patient determination has been an inspiration.
“We’re amazed at how well he’s healed and recovered, he’s our little miracle cat.”
Dexter and his owners have now received a trophy, certificate and a luxury Christmas pet hamper, to help him celebrate the festive season at home with his family.
Ruth added: “I entered Dexter in the competition thinking it would be a nice way to recognise his incredible bravery, but I never expected him to win.
“I’m over the moon, it’s an amazing end to what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all.”
Vet Jemma Gough, who was part of the team at Animal Vets which saved Dexter’s life, said: “The team at Animal Vets are all so proud of Dexter and how well he has done.
“Throughout the entirety of his treatment he has been a pleasure to care for, and the brilliant outcome we are seeing pays homage to his resilience, and the true dedication of his owners.
“Dexter is a real character, and well deserving of this recognition. I’m sure his Christmas hamper will go down a treat!”
PDSA Senior Vet Sean Wensley added: “After an uncertain start in life Dexter found a loving home, only to suffer at the hands of those who mindlessly inflict harm on people’s pets.
“It is thanks to the skill and dedication of veterinary professionals that Dexter’s fortunes are, once again, turned around.
“As ever, this was in partnership with his committed and caring owners and, between them, they have achieved this award-winning recovery, giving him the chance of many happy years ahead.”
The PDSA competition was open to pets treated for a life-threatening illness or injury by a vet in the UK between 1 January 2017 and 31 August 2018.
Four finalists were selected by a judging panel and a public vote was then held to pick the winner.
The other three finalists were Brandy the Staffie from South East London who had an 11-inch stick lodged through her throat and chest after a game of fetch went wrong, Maximus the grey cat from Fife in Scotland – involved in a suspected hit-and-run accident, and Skittles the ginger cat from North West London who was found impaled on railings.