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This one's not for the faint hearted!

Updated: Apr 17, 2022

So during my career I have seen plenty of weird and wonderful things, this particular case is one that stands out in my mind so I thought I would share it with you! WARNING photos of surgery to follow.

spaniel running in water

One morning we got a call at the surgery from the owner of a 1 year old springer spaniel. They said he was making a crunching noise as he walked and was feeling a bit off colour. It was an odd one as dogs don't make crunching sounds! We were a bit confused but advised the owner to come straight down. Low and behold just as the owner described the dog made a strange crunching noise as he walked into the surgery....

dog foreign body, gastrointestinal blockage in dog

The second I put my hands on the pup I could tell there was a serious problem. The poor dogs stomach was massively swollen and full of something.... we were not quite sure what. We quickly admitted the poor dog and sedated him and prepared to take X-rays of his abdomen.... this is what we found! ---->

His stomach was about 4 times the size it should be and was full of stone chips the dog had eaten from the owners back garden!!!

This had quickly become a surgical emergency, without operating I knew this dog would die. We quickly postponed the rest of our procedures for the morning and prepared the operating theatre. There was an air of excitement to treat this very peculiar case but also one of great concern as the out come could quickly become disastrous for the dog if its stomach ruptured.

The dog was placed under general anaesthetic and hair clipped and skin cleaned. I nervously scrubbed up contemplating exactly what I would find....had its stomach already burst, had its guts started to die, would I be able to save it, so many unknowns.

surgical removal of foreign body in dog

As the surgery started I quickly realised things were going to be a little tricker than anticipated. The stomach had stretched into the wrong position and was putting pressure on vital organs, I needed to act quickly. We were all in disbelief at the number of stones that just kept on coming! We used nearly every surgical kit and swab we had prepared. We were all in disbelief that a dog would eat this many stones. I have removed stones relatively frequently from dogs gastrointestinal systems over the years but never anything like this. As I removed more and more stones I realised that it was not just the stomach that had been affected. Some of the stones had actually passed through to the small and large intestine and were blocking it in several locations.

gastrointestinal surgery in dog, foreign body

I needed to carry out 3 separate cuts into the small intestine to remove these stones. This increased my concerns for the dogs recovery greatly. With every cut into the intestine the chance of sepsis from leaked gastrointestinal fluid (poo) increases and this can quickly become fatal in the days post op. The last few stones were sitting in the dogs colon... I was able to remove these out his bottom with the aid of some lube!

We repeated the X-ray before stitching up the dog to make sure there were no further stones hiding that we had missed. The abdomen was then flushed with several bags of sterile fluid to try and wash away any contamination.

The surgery lasted about 2.5 hours, by the end everyone was exhausted but relieved as the out come could have been a lot worse. The concerns did not stop there, the next few days would be make or break for this dog and we all had our fingers tightly crossed he didn't develop sepsis. One of the nurses gathered up all the stones and counted 215!!!

foreign body removed from dog, stones

Remarkably this cheeky springer spaniel recovered pretty quickly after this long surgery and was quickly sitting up in the kennel. We topped him up with strong pain relief and a few hours later he was desperate to get home. He went home with strong pain killers and antibiotics and we checked him frequently over the next few days for signs of sepsis and wound breakdown. At each check he came and went getting stronger and stronger and he had a perfect text book recovery. We were all so happy and relieved after such a horrific surgery the wee guy had gone through.

We can all learn a lesson from this case...... dogs can sometimes do silly things that don't make sense to us! When a dog eats something it shouldn't it is termed a 'foreign body'. Now I have removed numerous weird and wonderful things from dogs gastrointestinal tracts....corks ....toy cars ....socks ....pair of pants .....rubber balls .....bones .....string.... to name a few. A foreign body is a serious concern. In some dogs, particularly larger ones, they can sometimes manage to pass them and the first the owner might know about it is when they go to poop scoop and find a sock or such like. But this most defiantly is not always the case. Foreign bodies can cause blockages in the gastrointestinal tract and clinical signs may include vomiting, lethargy and abdominal pain. If you suspect your dog has eaten something it shouldn't its always worth phoning your vet. Particularly if they are becoming unwell as if a blockage is left untreated this can ultimately lead to the gut dying and breaking down which causes serious problems for the dog including death. Not all endings are as happy as with our wee springer spaniel.

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