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Tales from the Pet Clinic

with Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM

This blog has been retired. We appreciate all of the insights that Dr. Hohenhaus shared with our readers.


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Life-Threatening Thread: A Cat’s Nemesis

By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM

This is the second in a series of blogs on pets with intestinal problems.


Jenny is a survivor. In 2004, this friendly orange feline developed a form of cancer located at the site of a prior injection. Successful removal of the tumor required an amputation of her right hind leg, and today she remains cancer free. Recently, Jenny used up another of her nine lives because of a tangle with a piece of sewing thread and a needle.

Cat lovers everywhere know how much their cat likes to be entertained by a piece of string, some ribbon, or a ball of yarn. Cat lovers also know how easy it can be to drop one of these items soundlessly onto the floor where these fun toys can turn deadly if found and swallowed by their cat.

Gone in one gulp!

That is exactly what happened to Jenny. Her owner noticed Jenny playing with a piece of thread and saw the glint of metal, and then in the blink of an eye both the thread and the metallic object were gone! Jenny’s family suspected the metallic object was a sewing needle attached to the thread.

Jenny's X-Ray

The x-ray confirms

Jenny was rushed to The Animal Medical Center, where the emergency service immediately took an x-ray and found the needle already in her small intestine. If the needle had stayed in her stomach, it could have been retrieved using an endoscope. Removal of the needle from her intestines required emergency surgery; hopefully before the needle and its attached string caused any internal damage. The surgeon on call, Dr. Philippa Pavia, started surgery at 11 pm, and through a one-half-inch-long incision in the intestine, a one-and-a-half-inch-long needle with an attached five-inch-long piece of thread was successfully removed. By 2 a.m., Jenny was back in her hospital cage, safely recovered from anesthesia. She resumed eating the following day and was discharged from The AMC.

Protect your cat

Every veterinarian can recite a list of feline patients just like Jenny who have eaten shoelaces, Christmas tree tinsel, cassette tapes, and hair ribbons. Jenny was lucky that her family acted quickly. They saw her eat the thread and knew eating thread could be serious. If you are a cat owner, keep all string out of reach of your cat and allow it to play with strings only when supervised to avoid a scenario like Jenny’s or worse.

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 6:37 am

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