A gentleman brought his two-year-old Poodle to the emergency clinic where I work Sunday afternoons. The Poodle ate a sock two days ago. No symptoms were observed for 36 hours. However, this morning the owner noticed that the dog was lethargic and reluctant to play. He seemed uncomfortable and had vomited twice.
The background was consistent with a bowel obstruction secondary to a gastrointestinal foreign body. In this case, the suspected foreign body was a sock.
When a dog or cat (or rarely, human) eats something that is too large to pass through the intestines, it causes a life-threatening obstruction of the intestinal tract. Surgery usually is necessary to retrieve the offending object. I started bracing the owner for the possibility that his dog might require emergency surgery. The dog would need to be hospitalized for several days, and I would have to work far too late to write a blog post.
The dog was very nervous. He became scared and tried to bite me when I approached. He also had diarrhea–that is common in extremely frightened animals. The owner was unable to place a muzzle on his pet for the exam.
I truly needed to examine the dog. Without an exam, I could not be sure that it would be safe to administer tranquilizers for treatments and X-rays. I had no intention of doing anything aggressive or invasive to the dog. I simply needed to listen to his heart and lungs, and to palpate his abdomen gently.
A staff member helped with the exam. As I listened to the dog’s heart the frightened canine passed more diarrhea, then a solid bowel movement, and then more diarrhea.
That was most extraordinary. It is not normal for a solid bowel movement to be sandwiched between two episodes of diarrhea.
I asked a nurse to save the solid stool. She evaluated it with a tongue depressor and discovered that it contained a yellow and green striped sock.
Problem solved. The anxiety of going to the doctor evidently increased the dog’s intestinal motility. This evidently dislodged the sock and caused it to pass.
As I write this the dog is now happily at home. And so am I.
Photo: not edible. And frankly, not very stylish either. By Rico Shen.