Bon Appetite?

June 19th, 2012


Posted by Dr. Pamela Barker

It never ceases to amaze me at what dogs will eat. Ask any veterinarian, and they’ll recite a catalogue of the curious items they have removed from the inside of a dog (where, as Mark Twain once said, it’s very dark).

I am reminded of this every spring, which seems to be the official kick-off for the season of Inedible Objects Being Consumed. A few months ago, I was called in one evening to remove a bone from a dog’s mouth. This happens more often than you might think. Most often a piece of the bone gets lodged on the roof of the mouth between the large chewing teeth in the back. And it’s amazing how tightly they can get stuck. Even more amazing is that some dogs don’t complain about it — you’ll never even see it unless you crank the mouth way open to look for it. I’ve encountered several cases that were only discovered when the stench of the dog’s breath became unbearable.

This bone, however, was a bit different. It was one of the round, hollow kind, and somehow this poor guy — who came into the clinic wagging his tail, but looking a bit embarrassed — had managed to get it stuck around the bottom of his chin. It was absolutely clamped around his lower jaw and lodged behind the canine teeth. His owners had been working at it for some time, but had finally given up.

To make everyone’s life easier, I gave him a light sedation and something to relieve the pain. I figured then I’d be able to give the bone a little twist and slip it right off — looking terribly clever in the process. Well, you know what they say about pride before a fall. Even with the dog completely immobile, the bone remained as lodged tightly as ever.

Finally, since nothing else was working, I pulled out our cast cutter and sawed the bone in half. Worked like a charm — but I swore the owners to secrecy, since this is most definitely NOT the intended use for the cast cutting saw, a piece of equipment that runs about $800. My boss would not have been pleased. (Though I did, guiltily, ‘fess up later, and he took it with good humor.)

To this day, I have no idea how the dog managed to get a bone wedged on there so tightly that it had to be cut off. Seems almost impossible that this could have happened by accident.

There have also been other more common items. Fish hooks, for example are a problem in this part of B.C. during the summer. Often stuck through a lip, on the nose, or hooked on the tongue. Once in a while, a dog will even swallow one. Which is a really good reason to not take your dog on a fishing trip if you like using hot dogs for bait.

One of my most memorable cases involved a really nice dog — a standard poodle named Sam — who swallowed some very  . . .  well, let’s say racy women’s lingerie. Twice. Now, when an owner has to pay a hefty vet bill for surgery, they naturally expect to see what you’ve retrieved. Usually it’s a child’s toy, a piece of a ball, a rock — regular stuff. When it’s something from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, that makes for an awkward moment in the consult room. The first words the client uttered upon seeing this wildly coloured piece of mangled lace? “Those aren’t mine!”

Fortunately for all concerned, she had a sense of humor and a generous limit on her VISA card, because Sam would repeat his performance just a few months later. This time, neither one of us was surprised. The odd part was that he never left the fenced backyard of her rented house, except on a leash. The only thing we could figure is that a former renter must have buried the evidence of an indiscretion in the backyard, only to have Sam unearth the remains of the affair.

Mind you, this case one pales by comparison with one I happened to read about. The owner turned the house upside down searching for a pager. Finally, in frustration, the owner dialed the number, and began removing all the sofa cushions. Suddenly, the ringing could be heard. And when the owner’s dog, dislodged from its perch on the sofa, left the room … the ringing did, too. Go figure.

Dr. Pamela Barker is a professional veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience, currently practicing in 100 Mile House, B.C. Her special areas of interest include animal behaviour and training, nutrition and condition for canine athletes, and public education about animal health and care. If you’d like to suggest a topic for one of her future blog posts, please feel free to leave a comment below.



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