How to clear a dog

When a dog is bunged up, it re­quires a a good clean-out - by hand.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Tales Of A Country Vet -

TR­ISHA FISK

Ben Hur was well and truly bunged up. He was a big dopey hunt­away, black as the in­side of an An­gus cow, but with a bright star on his chest. The very tip of his tail looked as though it had been dipped in white paint and used to daub un­tidy splotches on his feet.

He be­longed to Sam (the Man) Mun­ster, a large, lugubri­ous young man who was sharemilk­ing on 450 hard acres not far from town. Sam was not the bright­est can­dle on the cake, but he made up for it with hard work and re­li­a­bil­ity, and his place re­quired lots of both. The land was a hun­gry clay that was so slick and greasy in win­ter, it was nigh im­pos­si­ble or at best very dan­ger­ous at­tempt­ing to get hay out to cows up the hill. In sum­mer, the drought would fry even the scruffy kikuyu stalks on the flats and Sam would have to re­sort to feed­ing out his pre­cious baleage to keep cows milk­ing for a half-de­cent sea­son.

Dairy farm­ing is a dif­fi­cult life for a dog. They cause more trou­ble than they are worth when the cows are calv­ing and feel­ing stroppy about any crea­ture com­ing near their new ba­bies. Once calv­ing is over, there’s the rou­tine of get­ting the cows in twice a day, ev­ery day, and it’s enough to bore an in­tel­li­gent dog out of its brain. Same cows. Same track. Same shed. Same time. Day af­ter day.

Some farm­ers try to do it with­out a dog, but that means zoom­ing around the re­cal­ci­trant ones at milk­ing time. That’s ok on nice flat Waikato fields, but dan­ger­ous in the dark pre-dawn on steep hills. A dog can be use­ful, but the trick is to find one will­ing to do the same old work, calmly and steadily.

Ben Hur was Sam’s so­lu­tion, a big­footed mutt with a woof that came from deep in his belly, but only when it was ab­so­lutely re­quired to rus­tle up some silly first calver. Oth­er­wise he was con­tent to poo­zle along be­hind the herd and sniff at the rushes and roses (well, black­berry) to and from the shed at a gen­tle pace suit­able for good milk pro­duc­tion.

But the day we met him, Ben was more than just placid. He was al­most co­matose.

“He’s been like this for a cou­ple of days now,” said Sam.

The Vet checked the dog’s blood pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture and lis­tened to his heart. “How old is he?” “Oh, about five I reckon.” The Vet pal­pated the dog’s ab­domen and got a good groan out of him. The Vet’s eyes lit up.

“I reckon he is just bunged up good and proper. Con­sti­pated.”

“Yeah, I haven’t no­ticed him have a crap for a cou­ple of days, not that I was al­ways watch­ing him,” says Sam. “But he did seem to be strain­ing a bit. Now he isn’t even do­ing that.”

“Well, we can try him on some paraf­fin

Yeah, I haven’t no­ticed him have a crap for a cou­ple

of days...

oil and coloxil tablets first.”

Sam cleared his throat and shuf­fled about a bit.

“Oh yeah, well ac­tu­ally I al­ready gave that a go,” he ad­mit­ted. “Re­mem­ber years ago the wife’s lit­tle dog got bound up when the weather turned rot­ten and it didn’t want to go out and get its feet wet. You gave us paraf­fin and coloxil then. It worked a treat. So I got some from the chemist the other day I was in town, thought I might be able to fix Ben me­self. But it’s been an­other 48 hours and he’s look­ing sicker than ever.”

“Ok,” the Vet ac­knowl­edged Sam’s ef­forts, not at all put out that the farmer would try his own re­pairs. “But I think we had bet­ter not muck around any longer and just op­er­ate.”

“Oh boy, that sounds ex­pen­sive.” Sam looked un­com­fort­able.

“Well, is he a good dog?” the Vet asked. “Can you man­age with­out him?” “On that place? You got to be kid­ding.” “Then look on it as a good in­vest­ment, nec­es­sary in­fras­truc­ture.”

Ben Hur was se­dated, put on a drip to hy­drate him prop­erly and reg­u­late the amount of anaes­thetic he got, then we washed down his belly with al­co­hol and opened him up like a zip­per had ap­peared down his mid­line. The Vet sloshed around in the belly look­ing for the bunged-up sec­tion of gut, while I got to work on the bot­tom end, squeez­ing out and reach­ing for as much mat­ter as my small gloved fin­gers could get to.

It was gluey mat­ter, full of fur. Pos­sum fur.

“You been feed­ing him pos­sums?” the Vet asked Sam.

“No, but reckon he might have got into the bush and amused him­self hunt­ing for one the other day. I got held up in the evening as a cou­ple of heifers had jumped the fence into the bush and I needed to cut the wires to get them back to the mob. Ben was doo­dling around but I didn’t keep my eye on him. Maybe he caught some­thing.”

There are three ways to ‘clear’ a dog of a mess like this. You can knock them out and try an en­ema up the back pas­sage to soften and loosen the mat­ter, but when pal­pat­ing Ben’s belly, the Vet de­cided the block­age was too high to reach. The next op­tion was to slice open the lower bowel and clean out the fur clog­ging up the works, then stitch it back up, but that runs the risk of in­fec­tion. That left op­tion three, to open up his gut so we could get to the miles of in­tes­tine and just milk the mat­ter along the pipe­line, squeez­ing it out the way it was meant to go.

Vet work is of­ten not very ro­man­tic. The two of us worked side-by-side, and af­ter half an hour the in­tes­tine was clear. Then it was just a mat­ter of pil­ing the guts back in and stitch­ing him up again.

Within an hour Ben was grog­gily com­ing round. He helped him­self to the wa­ter bowl and wagged at his boss. “Ok. Take him home and you will have to do the bark­ing your­self for a week,” said the Vet. “Then bring him back and we can check how it has healed and get his stitches out.”

“Oh. He won’t like stay­ing at home much.”

“Well, give him a char­iot to ride then, but keep him on the back of the quad where he can rark up the slaves.

“But no more pos­sum fluff.” ■

Vet work is of­ten not very ro­man­tic

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