As a vet I have seen a huge variety of pet injuries, ailments, misadventures and miraculous recoveries over the years. However, when it was my own dog that experienced a serious medical complaint, it quickly brought home the anxiety that all pet owners must feel when their pet is ill.
Two months ago my one year old Labrador “Luna”, was on her daily walk through the local woodland, this involved running full pelt at every opportunity, sniffing out any tennis ball within a 2 mile radius and consuming as many horse droppings as she can manage. The following day it was noticed that Luna seemed off key, she had vomited once, was reluctant to get out of her bed and there was less ‘wag of the tail’, most alarmingly she didn’t finish her bowl of food that morning. She is normally referred to as the ‘hoover’ due to her legendary Labrador appetite.
I examined Luna and bar a small innocuous scab on her flank, found nothing of concern. I concluded that one mouthful of horse poo too many had been consumed, and treated her for gastro-enteritis. Sadly after a few days it became apparent that Luna was no better and remained subdued and off her food. Further investigation involved blood tests to look at her organ function and blood count, which all came back normal. Further treatment with antibiotics and pain relief provided no improvement and it was elected to progress to imaging. By now I was getting very concerned as Luna had been ill for 7 days.
X-rays taken of Luna’s chest and abdomen showed no abnormalities, however an ultrasound scan of her abdomen showed an irregular mass at the base of her spleen. It was elected to proceed to exploratory surgery which was performed by my colleague Scott Dickson. The result was one of the most surprising of my career. A three inch long section of stick was removed from inside Luna’s abdomen, where it was lodged in lump of scar tissue next to the spleen. There was a considerable amount of infection in the abdomen but fortunately no severe damage to any internal organs.
It appears that the innocuous scab on Luna’s flank was the penetration point of this unusual foreign body, which had proceeded to migrate rapidly through her body wall into the abdomen. This story has a happy ending, and after a long course of antibiotics, Luna has made a full recovery and back to being the ‘hoover’. However, I still watch with bated breath when she runs full pelt through the woodland, though this is part and parcel of Labrador ownership!