Foreign bodies I have known


Regular readers of this blog will have been eagerly awaiting the 20th birthday of Peanuts, who doubles as joint head of the household (don’t ask) and ginger tom. Well, ex-tom to be precise. He celebrated reaching this major landmark during the week, not by inviting the neighbour’s three moggies through the cat flap (actually more of a hole now than a cat flap) for jelly and Dreamies, but by throwing up grass vomit in the kitchen.

Time was, when Peanuts was but knee high to a vole, that he would have been sicking up something a tad more manly, like the bile from a mouse’s gall bladder. (Sorry, should have posted a health warning at the head of this blog, but I never know where I’m going with them.) Then you really did need to put your slippers on in the morning before venturing into the kitchen. But, now he’s lost a bit of speed, he tends to hunt for stuff that’s slightly slower moving, like an unwary blade of ryegrass.

Mrs Blog, the in-house vet, tells me that she’s never been responsible for cleaning up vomit, or worse, at the surgery, as she’s always found alternative professional tasks to occupy herself with when bodily waste products are hitting the fan, metaphorically speaking. So it tends to fall to this blog to do the necessary when misfortunes occur at home. Mind you, dealing with the odd bit of liquidised lawn is nothing compared with our late Labrador’s internal and unpremeditated rejection of a whole tub of Flora – but I’ll leave that to another day when we’ve all had a good rest.

So, where were we?

Foreign bodies.

No, this has nothing to do with UKIP and immigration and everything to do with stuff retrieved from animals’ insides, particularly dogs. Since they’re all descended from pack dwelling ancestors when feeding time was a free for all, the dog evolved to eat first and ask questions afterwards on the basis that what is in his stomach is safely his. If horribly contaminated or otherwise unsuitable, it can always be vomited up at a later date. (Still reading?) When this doesn’t work, a foreign body may be the outcome.

You might think the object most frequently removed from the dog’s digestive tract would be a bone but in practice these tend to come some way down the list. Small objects imbued with body fluids (still with me?) seem irresistible, so babies’ dummies, handkerchiefs and particularly socks loom large in the “body count”. If you own a dog and you’ve mislaid a sock, chances are it’s not been swallowed by the washing machine but by the family pet.

Sometimes the owner finds it difficult, even sensitive, to advise the vet just what the offending article might be. If Mrs Blog’s return phone call to the client is made from home I  occasionally overhear her end of the conversation.

“You think he’s swallowed something?

“Why do you think he might have swallowed something?

“What kind of material?

“How big a garment?

“Well, how many thongs?”

This one generated a degree of anticipation at the surgery before the young female owner came in with the dog, as well as giving rise to a jolly discussion amongst the veterinary nurses about whether to offer her the “foreign body” back after it had been removed and whether she was likely to want it. They offered. She didn’t.

Dogs, let’s be honest, will basically swallow anything. My in-house vet has brought home the odd x-ray to show me and the one with a small rubber duck clearly visible probably looked the sweetest. Some of these children’s toys are well nigh indestructible. And Superglue, of course, presents its own challenges.

The list of objects she and her colleagues have recovered over the years from patients’ insides runs to squash balls, rocks, needles, corn cobs (especially in the barbecue season), curtain rings, sticks, coins, knives and forks, a mobile phone, CDs, specs, a necklace and even dentures, though my favourite would have to be a pair of rubber underpants. And that was one that the owner definitely struggled with. He explained that they “belonged to a friend” who had “accidentally left them”.

Dogs also consume their owners’ medication on a regular basis, sometimes still in the pill box. Of course, for the vet to be able to treat the affected animal, the owner needs to come clean on just what drug the dog has taken, whatever its legality. There have been a good few pets brought to the surgery over the years under the influence of cannabis and one Bull Terrier, brought in by a short man with impressive muscles, had swallowed some growth hormone apparently banned from national bodybuilding competitions. When the vet contacted the Poisons Helpline, they queried the source of the drug but they did furnish the necessary advice.

She looked forward with interest to the anticipated arrival for an appointment of an allegedly intelligent Dalmatian that had digested an entire volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2010 edition, but this turned out to be a hoax by a colleague. Which is all you need.

My brother is also a vet (no, it’s not really a coincidence, it’s how we met) and he told me the story of a woman who brought in her cat together with a dog’s tail, all that remained of a friend’s Chihuahua she had been looking after until her own pet had unfortunately viewed it as some sort of tasty rodent. But, in terms of an actual foreign body requiring surgery, he said the most unusual would probably be a Cliff Richard tape.  A black band could be seen under the tongue of a German Shepherd brought to the surgery. This proved to be a loop of cassette tape caught around the tongue, then passing down the oesophagus (translation: gullet). Opening up the stomach had enabled him to free more of the tape but further lengths passed into the small intestine. Further incisions enabled him to free yet more tape but he was dismayed to find the furthest end of the cassette passed through the narrow junction between intestine and colon (you’re sure you’re ok?), necessitating a final incision to free the last four inches from the rectum. As the nurse said at the time, “Summer Holiday at the mouth, Bachelor Boy in the stomach, Young Ones in the bowel and CONGRATULATIONS at the bum!”



2 thoughts on “Foreign bodies I have known

  1. Love the post Steve. Time to shamelessly promote the upcoming book as I assume this passage is a tastey, or rather, decidedly unappetizing (In the culinary sense) snippet.

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