By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM
This is the third in a series of blogs on pets with intestinal problems.
‘Garbage hound’ is not a new breed of dog: these dogs have been around for a long time, raiding the trash can for tasty but indigestible morsels. Ratchet, today’s protagonist, is not a hound at all, but a one-and-a-half-year-old rescued pit bull. He’s been at The Animal Medical Center before for digestive problems. Last December, after three weeks of vomiting blue plastic pieces, endoscopy was used to remove bits of blue plastic from his stomach.
On the weekend leading up to the 4th of July, Ratchet had been at the beach when he started vomiting. Once he vomited up a ball and a sock his family thought he would get better, but Ratchet continued to vomit.
Another ER Visit
Back to The AMC Ratchet came, and the ER snapped the abdominal x-ray shown below. The radiologist immediately recognized an intestinal obstruction, likely with some sort of fabric foreign body. Possibly the other sock?
An intestinal obstruction is a bona fide emergency. The emergency surgeon on call was alerted to Ratchet’s predicament. This was a major middle-of-the-night intestinal remodeling job. The blood supply to four inches of small intestine had been compromised and a leak had formed. To remove the devitalized portion of intestine and the leaking hole, eight inches of intestine were resected and the ends reattached. The cause of this mess was a conglomeration of petrified plastic glove, sticks, and grass.
As a compliment to his tough dog name, Ratchet got a grenade. Not the military kind, but a grenade bulb drain used to suction fluid off his abdomen. This simple yet useful grenade-shaped device is made of soft plastic. Before it is attached to a tube surgically placed in the abdomen, the grenade bulb is compressed. If fluid accumulates in the abdomen, the grenade expands and suctions the fluid out. The drain was necessary because his surgeon was concerned he might develop peritonitis from the leaking and devitalized segments of intestine.
A Quick Recovery
Despite the serious nature of his obstruction, Ratchet quickly bounced back. He never developed the peritonitis his surgeon feared, and within hours of being unobstructed he was asking for food. His quick recovery was, in part, due to his young age and general health, plus the skill of his medical team. Now the challenge for this garbage hound’s future is preventing consumption of potentially obstructing objects.
Advice to Pet Owners
If your pet is a garbage hound, you will need to keep his environment free of articles small enough to be eaten. Vomiting by a garbage hound must be taken seriously, as every episode could be an obstruction requiring urgent intervention.