One of the ways we know if most of our canine patients are feeling alright is if they eat and enjoy their food. It’s one of the most fundamental pleasures in life for us all. However, dogs at times can push this a little too far, eating some of the most disgusting things. However, their extreme desire to eat anything and everything can be their downfall.
All of the above was certainly true for Ozzy, a 4 year old male black Labrador. Black Labradors have somewhat of a reputation for their love of food, but Ozzy pushes this to an extreme. In October 2015 he had had to make an emergency visit to the vets that ended up with surgery and a toy dolls shoe being removed from his small intestine. He recovered remarkably well but seeming didn’t learn his lesson. When Ozzy started to exhibit similar signs of inappetance and lethargy his owner immediately feared the worst.
Knowing Ozzy’s tendencies the owner contacted the surgery straight away and was seen out of hours. The possibility of him having eaten something that had got stuck was high on the list. As such it was elected to perform an X-ray to see if there was anything obvious. The results were inconclusive and so Ozzy was placed on a drip, given pain relieving medication and monitored in the surgery.
Ozzy was administered multiple medications over the next 36 hours but things were not progressing. Blood tests returned showing that his white blood cells were rising and it was evident that we would have to reconsider things again. Once again Ozzy was sedated in order for us to again X-ray his abdomen and have a good feel of his tummy. This time the results were very different.
The X-rays showed an abnormal shadow and palpation of his abdomen was uncomfortable and also revealed an irregular swelling. Neither of the tests were definitive but they certainly provided evidence that we needed to operate to investigate what the possible cause was. Witout hesitation the owner knew this was the best option and consented for us to progress urgently.
As soon as we started the surgery the problem became obvious. We first found a lot of infected, purulent fluid in his abdomen, and then the cause became clear. Ozzy had obviously eaten a twig that had managed to pass through unaltered, right through to the end of his small intestine. At that point however it had penetrated through the wall of the intestine and leaked the contents into the abdomen.
This was an extremely serious finding and the prognosis for Ozzy was in the balance. A phone call was made to his owner who simply requested that we try everything possible to save him. With this request we set about trying to surgically deal with the considerable task ahead of us. We firstly removed approximately 30 cm of small intestine and reattached the two healthy ends back together. We then had to deal with all the infected fluid. A suction machine was used to suction it from the abdomen and then sterile saline was used to lavage and cleanse his infected abdomen. In total 10 litres of saline was flushed through before we were happy that things were improving.
Ozzy was on intravenous antibiotics and a feeding tube was placed in his neck so that we could give him feeds even if he didn’t want to eat. The surgery had gone as well as it could have but their were still a long way ahead.
Ozzy was relatively bright the following day considering the ordeal he had been through. Uncharacteristically he did not have an appetite though and so the feed tube was used to give him small and regular highly digestible feeds that would help his healing process. This was continued over the following 3 days with gradually increasing amounts of a specialised diet and eventually Ozzy’s usual hunger kicked back in.
Ozzy was discharged and antibiotics, pain killers, and a specific gastrointestinal diet. After a further 3 days his feeding tube was removed and we were happy he was over the worst. More importantly Ozzy was once again difficult to control and trying to eat anything in site – a sure way of knowing he was back to normal.
Ozzy has been incredibly fortunate. His owners have done everything for him and he still presents them with a worry as to how to avoid this in the future. They always keep a close eye on him but now are even considering using a muzzle for him so as to avoid him consuming things that he shouldn’t. So, if you see an incredibly friendly black Labrador with a muzzle on, you may know who it is and why.
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