I’m sure this isn’t news to anyone. Animals eat some seriously stupid sh*t. If you’re reading this and you’re a vet treating small animal or exotics (or goats, they eat everything), there’s a good chance you’ve removed something from someone’s pet at least once in your career. If you’re not a vet, you either own an animal that ate something or you know someone whose pet ate something.
I’ve been practicing for nearly 13 years, and in that time I have removed A LOT of foreign bodies. Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite surgeries. Every one is a bit different. Is it going to be in the stomach or intestines? Is it a straightforward removal, or a linear foreign body (like a piece of string) that will need multiple approaches? Is the intestine healthy or does some need to be removed? And the best, what the heck is it? Because face it, a lot of time owners have absolutely no idea what they might have eaten.
Still, there are some totally unpleasant aspects. Depending how long this object has been there, the smell when you get inside can be completely atrocious. And I don’t know if this happens to other doctors, but I habitually stand really close to the surgical table. So when it comes time to flush out that abdomen, I always end up with scrubs and underwear soaked with blood-tinged lavage fluid. You’d think I would have learned after the third or fourth time.
If there’s something I’ve learned, it’s definitely that there are certain items that seem to be preferred by a lot of dogs. Dirty laundry, especially socks and underwear, are the foreign body filet mignon. I know of more than one vet who has removed a pair of underwear, only to find out they didn’t belong to the wife when the dog was picked up! Rocks are another big one – seriously, I don’t get it, what is appetizing about a rock? Tampons are the potato chips – you can’t stop with just one…and I’m not talking about the clean ones still in the package. Ladies, do us all a favor and get a trash can with a locking lid. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re going to vomit while wearing a surgical mask. And do you every feel like no matter how many hair ties you buy, they just all go missing? They do. They’re in your dog (or your cat, that’s one of their favorites).
And then there’s the extra fun ones. Toys. Jewelry. Nails and screws. Coins (those can be dangerous because pennies are toxic.) I’m in San Diego, and Queen Palm nut foreign bodies are big here. I had one little Corgi that I operated on 5 separate times for those things. I’ve removed leather gloves and pounds of grass. I even had to cut my own kitten twice for eating baby bottle nipples.
Here are a few x-rays of some of the amazing things animals eat.
Are you up to the challenge? – 6 foreign bodies in one dog. They are all visible on these radiographs. How many can you see?
And the pièce de résistance – a snake that swallowed a beer bottle.
So here’s to all the vets heading into surgery, I hope it goes smoothly. And to all the pet owners whose dogs, and cats, have joined the club, and especially the owners of repeat offenders.
Has your pet eaten something stupid? For the vets, what’s the best thing you’ve removed from an animal? Comment below!