Mystery Dinner

Dogs, and cats for that matter, eat all kinds of weird things.   Some eat foods, some eat toys, some eat poop (ew!)…the list goes on and on.  Being a veterinarian, we get to see some really intresting cases of weird things eaten.  In my post  Pet Poison Hotline I mentioned what happens when pets eat toxins but what about when a dog eats inanimate objects? Toys? Strings? Bones?  This condition is known as dietary indescretion.

When your pet eats an inanimate object only three things can happen:

  1. Nothing – it passes.  You may or may not see it pass as a present in the yard.  If you don’t find it eventually you begin to wonder if he ever actually ate it.  OR, you consider the possibility that it may still be inside.
  2. She makes a mess – by vomiting it back up, along with the rest of the contents of the stomach.  Then, to make matters worse, diarrhea develops too.
  3. Bad news bears – it gets stuck.  This also can cause vomiting or diarrhea or worse if not dealt with in a timely manner. 

Our physical examination and diagnostics like blood work and x-rays can help us determine if something is stuck.   Sometimes on x-ray you can see a stuck object.  Other times, you see large dilated airfilled intestines and stomach as gas backs up from the obstruction.

Check out the following x-ray for a dog presenting for vomiting and diarrhea with straining.  He has a history of getting into the trash can and did so a few days ago before all this started.  Do you see anything?

     Do you known what his diagnosis is? It’s a foreign body…in the stomach.  If you don’t see it, the following reproduction of the image with overlays points out the foreign body/bodies (green circle) in the stomach and a small amount of gas (blue arrow) in the intestine.  In this case, the gas amount is normal, it’s just the foreign body that showed up on x-rays that is abnormal.

  
 Okay, hopefully you see it now.  Now the fun part comes…what is it?  This pup had surgery and we pulled the foreign body out of his stomach.  When we went in, we were thinking we would be retrieving some rib-bones that had been in the trash can and were still stuck together.  However, this was not the case, and I should have known seeing as these two things look so identical in shape and length.   Do you know what it is yet?

  
Pacifiers!  Crazy right? Surgery went well and he recovered uneventfully.  The owners, when shown what was collected from his stomach were astounded.  Apparently, these pacifiers were missing for a full week!

It can sometimes be fun to try to guess what may be the culprit of an obstruction.  However, it is much more fun to see you smiling and not worrying over your pet as they undergo surgery to relieve an obstruction.  Be mindful of what your pet’s habits are.  Some pets will eat these things, others could care less.  Learn to know your pet and what objects or foods need to be kept away…this way, I won’t have to open up their gi tract to find out just what mystery dinner Fido had a few days ago.

TNR

TNR stands for Trap Neuter Return of feral (aka wild, unowned) cats.   TNR programs are extremely helpful in reducing the numbers of unowned cats in shelters as well as the numbers of cats that are euthanized in shelters. However, it takes some time.  TNR is a special passion of mine.  I have been working with a wonderful group within Central Pennsylvania called PAWS (pawsofpa.org).  PAWS focuses on reducing pet overpopulation and homelessness with large-scale TNR clinics.  The beauty of what PAWS does also lies in the fact that friendly “feral” cats and kittens brought through the clinic also find spots in their foster homes to be adopted out, becoming loved house-cats too.  As their spay/neuter veterinarian and a private practice veterinarian, it is so exciting to see cats come through our veterinary practice that have paperwork indicating adoption through the PAWS program.  It is great to see them “off the streets” and living the good life.

Today, we held a TNR clinic in Grantville, PA.  PAWS has people who help to trap feral cats and facilitate transportation to the spay/neuter clinics.  Each cat coming through the clinic receives a spay or neuter surgery under general anesthesia.  A low dose of an injectable anesthesia induces the anesthetic state and then we use gas anesthesia to maintain the pet during the surgery.  The cat’s ear is tipped – a procedure in which the tip of the left ear is excised – as a universal indicatior that this feral cat has been fixed and vaccinated.   

 Those deemed friendly enough for the adoption program are tested for FeLV/FIV and microchipped.  Post-operatively, the cats each receive a rabies vaccination, distemper vaccination, injectable antibiotic, injectable dewormer, and a dose of flean and tick prevention.  If there are any health issues such as an upper respiratory infection, wound, or skin infection, these are treated to the best of our ability in the wild cat.  Some caretakers are great at mixing liquid antibiotics into the food to treat their illness for a longer period of time.  The cats are monitored closely as they recover from anesthesia.  Once sitting up and looking around, they are considered recovered and the transporter/caretaker is notified that their cat is ready for pickup.

I pride myself in having a low surgical complication rate.  Our rate of anesthesia complication is less than 0.1%… as good (and in some cases better) as most primary care veterinarians.  I can attribute this to my excellent team of support staff and vigilant monitoring.  We truly do a good job at giving these unowned feral cats the best care possible at a reduced cost.  If you ever get a chance to volunteer for such an event, I would highly recommend it.  Not only will you be doing a great thing for the cats in your community but it is also a very rewarding opportunity.