The dog ate it!

Fol­low­ing the cat­a­logue of gob­bled items fea­tured in our July is­sue last year, DR ERICA STEPPAT re­calls two clas­sic cases in­volv­ing chicken and cho­co­late

Gardening Australia - - FEATHERS & FUR -

There is never a dull mo­ment in emer­gency. Just when you start to think you have seen ev­ery­thing, some­thing ar­rives to sur­prise and test you. On a rel­a­tively quiet Thurs­day night, a dog ar­rived in acute res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress. Sambo, a 17-year-old Kelpie cross, has been in a spe­cial har­ness for many years af­ter a spinal in­jury that means he can­not use his back legs. But this does not usu­ally slow Sambo down. He has an in­cred­i­bly ded­i­cated mum and, with the help of his har­ness, he does the RSPCA 4km Mil­lion Paws Walk each year. But on this night, chicken bones nearly fin­ished him off. Sambo had been given some raw chicken necks. He was so ex­cited, he had no time to chew – he swal­lowed them whole. For a big dog, that might not have been such a prob­lem, but the bones lodged in the bot­tom sec­tion of Sambo’s oe­soph­a­gus – the swal­low­ing tube that con­nects to the stom­ach.

When this hap­pens to a dog, he suf­fers se­vere ex­ces­sive sali­va­tion. In this case, the amount of saliva was so ex­treme that Sambo was chok­ing, caus­ing him im­mense dis­tress. On ar­rival, his gums were be­gin­ning to go pale and his heart­beat was weak. Sambo was fad­ing fast. My team of nurses and I worked to clear the air­way and place an en­do­tra­cheal tube into his wind­pipe. He was also given 100 per cent oxy­gen. Quite quickly, his gum colour im­proved and his heart rate and strength im­proved. We had saved his life.

Chicken choker

How­ever, the bat­tle was not over. Sambo was sta­ble while on oxy­gen, but we still needed to re­solve the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem – how to get the chicken bones out! X-rays proved that the bones were lodged in the tho­racic (chest) area of the oe­soph­a­gus, right above the heart. Surgery in this case is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult. Luck­ily, in th­ese days of so­phis­ti­cated equip­ment, we can try to re­move for­eign bod­ies with an en­doscopy.

“He was so ex­cited, he had no time to chew –

At­tached to the cam­era are for­ceps. It can be way harder than it sounds, but ide­ally we lo­cate the ob­ject with the cam­era, and use for­ceps to re­trieve it through the mouth.

The en­do­scope we re­quired (and the spe­cial­ist to use it) was at the main an­i­mal hos­pi­tal across the city. So, our next chal­lenge was to trans­port Sambo on oxy­gen and un­der anaes­thetic by pet am­bu­lance to the hos­pi­tal. Luck­ily, the trip was un­event­ful. To cut a long story short, I as­sisted the med­i­cal spe­cial­ist, who re­trieved three in­tact raw chicken necks from Sambo’s oe­soph­a­gus. He woke up from anaes­the­sia and oxy­gen sup­port, and walked back to his owner’s car the next day won­der­ing what all the fuss was about… And gee, was he a lit­tle peck­ish!

Toxic in­dul­gence

On that same night, I also had the plea­sure of treat­ing Mar­cus, a pug who got a lit­tle greedy over the Easter break! He had found some cho­co­late and de­cided not to share it with any­one else.

Cho­co­late can be toxic to dogs – a sub­stance called theo­bromine in cho­co­late acts like ex­ces­sive caf­feine, and dogs can­not eas­ily metabolise it. As a re­sult, they be­come ag­i­tated, their heart rate rapidly in­creases, they be­come dis­tressed and, in high enough amounts, the symp­toms can kill them. So, when we get phone calls to say a dog has in­gested cho­co­late, we ad­vise own­ers to bring in their dog straight away, so we can in­duce vom­it­ing.

Mar­cus hap­pily trot­ted into the clinic, feel­ing qui­etly pleased with him­self. We ex­am­ined him to make sure it was okay to in­duce him to vomit, and then pro­ceeded with an emetic in­jec­tion that made him throw up. You can al­most see the smile wiped from a dog’s face as he sud­denly turns nau­seous and be­gins to be sick.

It is al­ways sat­is­fy­ing to see cho­co­late-smelling vomit! Sounds bad, I know, but it is far bet­ter to treat a dog this way than deal with the con­se­quences of cho­co­late tox­i­c­ity, which puts their life at risk.

Once his stom­ach was empty and no more cho­co­late was ap­pear­ing, we gave Mar­cus an­other in­jec­tion of an anti-vom­it­ing drug. Within 10 min­utes, he lost his de­sire to vomit, no longer felt nau­seous, and trot­ted hap­pily out of the door won­der­ing what on earth had just hap­pened!

A story like this one is un­for­tu­nately com­mon. Over the Easter pe­riod, I have treated up to six dogs in one night for cho­co­late tox­i­c­ity! Mar­cus is not alone.

Mean­while, for­eign bod­ies – not al­ways just food, but socks, foam and many other weird and won­der­ful ob­jects – may oc­ca­sion­ally pass through a dog un­no­ticed, but more com­monly they will re­quire med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion.

It’s a timely re­minder to keep cer­tain food items out of reach of hun­gry dog­gies, and con­sider other den­tal hy­giene op­tions than chicken necks for your dog.

he swal­lowed them whole”

CHOC, HOR­ROR! Af­ter an emetic jab, Mar­cus was in­stantly nau­seous and vom­ited all the cho­co­late.

BACK IN HAR­NESS Sambo sur­vived his en­counter with too many chicken necks and has re­sumed train­ing with owner De­bra for the 4km Mil­lion Paws walk.

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