The end of an ordeal – hopefully

It began last Saturday. After 2 vomiting instances, one on Friday night and one on Saturday I brought Homer, my 7 year old cocker spaniel to the vet. His gums had become pale and he was looking very down and sorry for himself. I was worried, this little dog had never been sick in his life. I rescued him at the age of 3 and he came with quite a number of behavioural issues to deal with, in particular his resource guarding. As a result he has a special place in my heart. He is such a lovely dog and everyone loves him.

The vet took him in straight away. Within an hour she came back with initial blood results, he wasn’t anaemic, but was fighting something, as his white blood cell count was up. The next step was to scan his stomach and intestine. Later that day she came back to say that there was a blockage in the intestine, but she could not see a foreign body i.e. something he had swallowed. The only other alternative was a tumour. I was devastated. She had given him barium to see where the blockage was and started x-rays. Over the next 24 hours we waited to see how he would progress. He was on a drip and antibiotics to keep him hydrated and help fight whatever infection he had.

On Monday the vomiting suddenly increased from every 12 hours to every 2 hours. The vomit was a very low ph and the vet was worried about his oesophagus sustaining damage. I was becoming increasing worried. We were waiting for a place in UCD (University College Dublin – The national Vet College) because the view was still that it was a tumour. The waiting was awful. UCD offered an appointment for Wednesday.

On Monday evening I spoke with the vet and I expressed my concern that he was prone to scavenging and was there any way it could be a foreign body that he ingested. I was thinking in particular about the last time he visited the groomer, she told me he had eaten part of a toy on the day. That was about 4 weeks previous but anything other than a tumour was better. The next morning, after another xray I got a call at 9.30am, there seemed to be something foreign in the stomach. His stomach was almost empty after all the vomiting so it was easier to see and view the x-ray. We agreed that she would perform an Endoscope to have a look inside the stomach. The results were inconclusive, but there was something green there. So the next step was a laparoscopy to a look inside the stomach. I agreed and hung up the phone. I waited and waited for the phone call and prayed that it was a foreign body and not a tumour. But then, what if his stomach or intestine were perforated? What if he had septicaemia? My mind was racing.

Finally the phone rang, the vet had taken a small piece of what looked like rubber, which could have been the curved part of a ball out of his intestine. Luckily the intestine was not perforated and she was able to work it out through his intestine and exit it from his anus. She also had a look inside his stomach where she found smaller pieces of the rubber and quite an amount of hair all congealed in a single mass. I racked my brain wondering what it could be. We don’t give our dogs free access to balls. He hadn’t destroyed any toys that I was aware of lately, and the only toys the dogs have free access to are the red Kongs and some similar toys from premier. Certainly none of these toys had ever been destructible. He would stay in overnight for observation. They would start him on water in the morning and introduce bland food later in the day. He progressed extremely well and I was told I could collect him that evening. I couldn’t wait to see him and give him a cuddle, I was also looking forward to forensically examining the offending article.

The moment I saw it I knew exactly what it was, the end off a puppy Kong bone, a blue one. We don’t have any in the house for our own dogs as they are all adults. However, last Halloween we were minding a client’s dog. (We mind the occasional dog in our home). They brought her crate and bed set up and carried it into the house. Inside the bedding was the puppy Kong bone, which I didn’t see until I noticed Homer chewing on it. He had taken it out of her bed and had chewed a piece off it. Obviously I took it from him immediately. I watched him for a few days afterwards and when there were no problems I thought nothing more of it. It was, after all pretty soft and I thought he had probably chewed it up enough so it would pass, or so I thought. That was 2 months ago. I never would have dreamed that it could sit in his stomach for so long before he could become ill from it. Because it was rubber, it didn’t show up on the x-ray, making diagnosis impossible. Based on the x-rays and comparing it to the vague shadows the vet assures me it was still in his stomach on Monday evening and sometime between then and the next morning it moved into the small intestine.

Thankfully he is home now after 5 harrowing days of worry. He is doing well and happy in himself. He’s on 6 meals a day and will be for about a week or so. I have always been very conscious and careful about the dogs ingesting foreign objects so only leave them with toys I know and trust. I never buy cheap toys that are destructible and any new toys are given under supervision. But it just goes to show that even when you’re ultra careful you can still get caught out. What have I learned? To always check bedding that arrives with a client’s dog. But most importantly, not to assume that problems will present within hours or days of ingestion and bring the dog to the vet straight away even if there are no symptoms.