Every veterinarian has clients that he or she enjoys seeing every year. They become old friends with whom we catch up during yearly appointments.
I always was happy to see Mr. J. and his dog Teddy. We have been seeing his pets for decades. He always took good care of his dogs. However, I knew the instant I walked into the office and saw him pacing that something was seriously wrong. His pet was being radiographed. When I asked him why, he admitted that his dog had been given a pork bone by a family member.
Bones can cause serious problems. I have surgically cut marrow bones from the lower jaw. Bones also can become lodged between teeth. Bones can crack teeth and cause a major extraction of the main chewing tooth.
Once swallowed, bones can puncture an intestine and cause a fatal infection or become impacted in the lower bowel.
When owners visit with their new puppies and kittens, we explain in writing at their first visit: No real bones -- ever.
One look at Teddy and it was clear he was in big trouble as he gasped for air in respiratory distress. The radiograph showed large irregular and sharp bone fragments stuck in his esophagus. Options included an attempt to push the bones into the stomach and remove the pieces with surgery, but this was risky because of the sharp points. An attempt to retrieve the bone from the esophagus might fail and open chest surgery might be needed.
We decided in seconds that a trip to the emergency hospital was needed for an endoscopic retrieval, if possible, with surgical back-up if necessary.
Teddy was one lucky dog, as the internal medicine specialist was able to grab and remove the bone quickly under anesthesia. When I called the emergency room to find out if surgery was needed I was shocked to find out Teddy was already released and sent home with a good prognosis. After eating soft canned food for a few days he was as good as new.
This story has a happy ending, but the take-home message is quite clear.
Never feed dogs or cats bones, and always be careful that they do not find them in the trash. Carefully dispose of the bones and save a life. I hope Teddy enjoyed his last bone.
Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His column appears biweekly. The intent of this column is to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.