Mollie is a 7 month old West Highland White puppy who took a liking to her owner’s jeans. Specifically, the metal button at the front tasted pretty good. Despite being young, her jaws were strong and made quick work of removing the button and down the hatch it went!
Mollie’s owner brought her to Vetwest Wanneroo because Mollie had been vomiting that morning and her owner thought she had seen her chewing at her jeans two days prior. She had checked the jeans and found the button was missing and wisely brought her in for a check up. On examination Mollie was healthy and well hydrated, and the question of the missing button was quickly resolved by taking a radiograph (x-ray). Metal items are easily seen on radiographs, some dense plastic items will be seen clearly, but fabric won’t show well. If we are unsure we use a barium product that can be seen clearly on the radiograph to track how it is moving through the intestines.
The large metal button was clearly visible in Mollie’s stomach on the radiograph, and as her own vomiting efforts had not brought it back up and her intestines were too small to let it pass easily, we recommended surgical removal before it became stuck in her intestines. (A foreign object causing a blockage in the intestines can quickly become a fatal situation if not removed). Mollie’s owner agreed to the surgery which was performed later the same day.
Under a full general anaesthetic with the support of intravenous fluid given by a drip, an incision was made to open her abdominal cavity (called a laparotomy). Mollie’s heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygenation and blood pressure were tracked throughout the procedure by a dedicated surgery nurse while the veterinary surgeon performed the surgery.
Mollie’s abdominal organs were examined for any other problems and none were present. An incision was made in her stomach (called a gastrotomy) and the metal button was removed safely. Dissolving stitches were used to close the stomach and then her abdominal cavity. Non-dissolving stitches were placed in her skin and these were removed 10 days after the surgery. Mollie received antibiotics and two forms of pain relief during the procedure so she woke up comfortably after such a major surgery.
We kept Mollie in hospital overnight so we could start her food and water the following morning and monitor her for any post operative complications. Mollie made a quick recovery, and hasn’t looked back since.
Young dogs are usually the most likely candidate to ingest a gastro-intestinal foreign body as they tend to eat first and ask questions later (so to speak). Some objects that we have seen dogs swallow include baby dummies, marbles, buttons, jewellery, tennis ball fragments, corn cobs, bone fragments, large nuts, ribbon, thread, carpet, socks, rubber balls, toy stuffing, toy eyeballs, heads of stuffed animal toys, tampons, fish hooks, metal objects like Mollie’s, wooden skewers, and even an entire fork including the handle! Consider what things you might have lying around that could be a problem for your dog – it might save you and your beloved mutt a bit of heart (and gut) ache.