Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hey, have you seen my panty hose?

String, Thread, Fishing Line, Dental Floss, Easter Grass……..
Bet you are wondering what in the world these things have to do with a veterinary blog! Well, these are all examples of items which can be classified as “linear foreign bodies” if ingested by a pet. Most of us know that dogs and cats will eat the darnedest things. And, many of us have experienced our pets raiding the garbage resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. For the most part, these forages of dietary indiscretion are mild and self limiting. However, when I am presented with a pet that has possibly swallowed a linear object; I tend to become much more worried.
The problem with string, thread, fishing line, Christmas tinsel, dental floss, Easter grass, panty hose (yes, I said panty hose….see the story below. Caution---not for the faint of heart) is these items can anchor in the stomach or intestinal tract causing the intestine to contract down on the object and then bunch up in an “accordion” type pattern along the linear object. This is very damaging to the intestinal tract causing the loss of blood supply, necrosis and death of the intestine. As a result, peritonitis can make the pet deathly ill.
If your pet swallows any kind of object, call your veterinarian. It is possible to administer medication and/or material to help the pet pass the object. Sometimes, the only clue that a dog or cat has swallowed a foreign object is seeing it pass in the stool. If you happen to see a foreign object or string type material protruding from your pet’s rectum DO NOT PULL ON IT! In this instance, our natural inclination may be to try to remove the object from the rectal opening, however, this can further damage the intestinal tract. Call your veterinarian immediately. Medication, enemas or possibly surgery may be necessary to remove the foreign object.
During my first year in practice, an elderly couple called with a Border Terrier which had eaten a pair of panty hose. They informed me that about 12 inches of the panty hose was protruding from the rectum and even though they tried to pull it out, it was stuck. When I examined the dog, she was quite sick and toxic. I performed surgery on the little dog and removed 24 inches of her small intestine plus the panty hose. Fortunately, the surgery went well and she recovered completely but she had to endure major surgery.
As with many issues in life, prevention is the key. If you have a pet that is prone to eating things he/she should not eat, keeping these type of items out of reach is advised. A good friend of mine once gave me his child rearing wisdom which is “Either remove the child from the temptation or remove the temptation from the child”. This also excellent advice for pets!

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