Icon WebMD Expert Blogs

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.


The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, review, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have... Expand

The opinions expressed in WebMD User-generated content areas like communities, reviews, ratings, or blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. User-generated content areas are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD User-generated content as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Bummer: Sand Impaction

By Ann Hohenhaus, DVM

This is the first in a series of blogs about pets who have been treated for intestinal problems.


Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, but not for poor Lola. After a restful weekend at the beach, she started vomiting and ended up at The Animal Medical Center waiting to be seen by the emergency service. Her story is a cautionary tale for dog owners.

Lola is a 5 year old female Havanese, a small breed dog unfamiliar to many Americans. Havanese are the national dog breed of Cuba. Lola was the picture of health until her trip to the beach. She started vomiting the day she returned home, and by the next morning would no longer eat or drink. Her family made a tense two-and-a-half hour drive back to New York City to bring Lola to The AMC while she progressively became more and more lifeless. The emergency service veterinarian noted Lola’s abdomen was painful during examination and ordered an x-ray in addition to administering intravenous fluid therapy.

Problem found

No one was expecting what the x-rays showed–over seven inches of sausage-shaped impacted intestine, which was filled to a diameter of nearly one inch with something that looked suspiciously like sand. It’s no wonder the poor girl was not feeling well; her stomach must have felt like a lead balloon.

Lola's X-Rays

Lola was admitted to the hospital and intravenous fluid therapy continued to compensate for fluid lost due to vomiting. Additional treatments included antacids and medications to protect her stomach from abrasion as the sand worked its way out of her system. The hospital staff walked Lola outdoors frequently, as too much bed rest can slow down movements of the intestinal tract. For Lola to get back on track she needed to pass the sand as soon as possible.

On the second day of hospitalization, Lola turned the corner. She felt much better and started to eat without vomiting. Sand started coming out the other end and we knew she was going to recover.

Sand impaction is a serious problem, most commonly for horses and cows. In an urban hospital like The AMC, we rarely see sand impaction. A recent study of sand impaction in British dogs reported surgical removal of the impacted sand in about half the dogs in the study. Sadly, not all dogs with sand impaction successfully recover.

Fortunately, Lola’s story had a happy ending.

Next time she goes to the beach, Lola’s activities will be monitored more closely to keep her from eating sand.  If she goes swimming and starts gulping down sandy water, her beach time will be cut short.  If your dog has tummy troubles after spending time at the shore, see your veterinarian, because sand impaction is no day at the beach.

Posted by: Ann Hohenhaus, DVM at 6:10 am

Subscribe & Stay Informed

WebMD Healthy Pets

Sign up for the WebMD Healthy Pets newsletter and get the latest on food, exercise and health news for Fluffy and Fido.


WebMD Health News