Now you all know what a great dog Finn is, in my Very Humble Opinion. However, he isn't perfect, as I was reminded this week when we started talking about Weird Things Dogs Eat. Finn, for example, is a well-known toy-eater, so he isn't left unattended with toys. His very first dietary indiscretion was as a puppy, when he somehow managed to find and eat one of the jesses from "my" crow (a bird I was involved in rehabbing, hence not really mine). I'm not quite sure how this happened; the crow was wearing the jesses at the time, and then all of a sudden one of them was gone. I looked everywhere I could think of; eventually I figured that the crow must have taken the jess off and stashed it in the bedding of his cage, and I must have accidentally tossed it whilst cleaning the cage. Oh, well, I figured; I'd have to make another, but it wasn't a disaster.
The next thing that happened was that I was walking Finn (then a 3 month old puppy) and I noticed that he was - erm - excreting quite a lot of gelatinous mucus and something that looked a bit stringy. And black. Like a strip of leather. At the same instant that I realized that the mystery of the lost jess was solved, Finn demonstrated his love for unfortunate ingestions by turning around and trying to eat it again. Urk. Luckily I was equipped with a plastic bag, so I was able to thieve from him this delightful prize.
Finn has since several times sneak-ingested the furry hide of some plushy toy (he manages this by a combination of speed and stealth, and an ability to determine when I am preoccupied with another dog and likely to have my back turned for the roughly 19 seconds this maneuver takes). I am usually alerted to the fact that Finn has outflanked my vigilance at approximately 3:17 in the morning, when I hear the deep and unmistakable sound of Finn roarking up his ill-gotten gains. I've learned from experience that the first move (after rocketing out of bed as if launched by a catapult) is to grab Finn and put him outside, because his first instinct is to re-ingest the slimy, sodden, vomit-covered Object of His Desires (which will then be vomited back up about 12 minutes later). Typically this is the end of it, but there was one memorable episode when he had to go to surgery, having failed for two days in a row (and despite many earnest attempts on his part, ugh!) to bring up his latest prize. His stomach, on being exteriorized out of his abdomen, looked for all the world like a pregnant uterus with a puppy in it. Shortly after this interesting revelation, he delivered via C-section (well, or gastrotomy) a toy that resembled a bile-soaked rat, beslimed with mucus. EH? That's not any toy I have ever seen. After some investigation it turned out that it was one of the toys we keep a the clinic (to put in the cages of dogs or cats who have to stay for a few days, as company of a sort.) Knowing Finn's proclivities, I never put him out in the clinic's dog-yard with any remotely-ingestible toy out there; I can only imagine that one of the clinic employees, being helpful, turned Finn out without realizing he was not to be left alone with anything fuzzy. Oh, well; no harm done. Finn did well with his procedure, and the stomach is tremendously forgiving of surgery, so all ended well.
Not everyone is so lucky, though.
We've taken all kinds of things out of dog guts. Once we had a client come in, having observed his Lab ingest a golf ball. We took the Lab to surgery and found said golf ball - along with a second golf ball, aged to a greenish bronze color by long immersion in bile. (Ah-HA! Maybe THAT'S why the dog has been vomiting intermittently for the last year!) I've seen X-rays with coins, a metal pagoda, a cake knife, a plastic shark, various stones, fish hooks, a spring, nails, screws, bits of tin foil, bones - all kinds of things. We've taken out many of the above (well, not the plastic shark, the pagoda or the cake knife - those were all from X-rays taken at my alma mater and removed there without my help); and we've taken out things that were not completely identifiable or else didn't show up on X-rays: corn cobs, most of a TV remote control, a wad of raw bread dough (a potentially fatal ingestion), various fabric items (including an entire and completely intact underwire bra, yikes!), ribbons, shoelaces, parts of used diapers, various feminine hygiene products, an entire cassette tape (Travis Tritt, if I recall right, and very much the worse for wear), plush toys, wads of grass, sticks, dish towels, part of a steel-belted radial tire, a cow hoof, various chunks of rubber and plastic - the list is practically endless. Some of these things come out with minimal consequences, largely because we get to them soon enough. Others - well, some things cause problems no matter how quickly we get them out. The remote control, for instance, did horrific damage to the lining of the dog's gut, and despite all we could do for him, that dog died. Other times it's not so much the damage to the dog's gut that is the issue; there are all sorts of consequences to the ingestion of non-food items.
One time, several years ago, we had a dog that came in with signs of a GI foreign body. I had given the owner an estimate for the cost of surgery, but on a hunch I asked Dr. J if he wanted to scope the dog before we went to surgery, to see if we could perhaps retrieve the object of his dietary indiscretion without actually cutting him open. Dr. J cruised around with the scope for a few minutes, muttering about how something was in the way of his scope and interfering with visibility. He managed to snag this object - whatever it was - and began to pull it out of the dog's mouth. And pull it, and pull it..... It was like watching a magician pull an endless string of knotted-together scarves out of his sleeve. It just kept on coming. After a few moments, the mystery item was discovered to be an entire pair of black pantyhose, wet and sodden (and very stretchy by consequence). After extracting this, Dr. J re-scoped the dog, found a pristine (and empty) stomach, and the dog was recovered uneventfully.
Well. That wasn't so bad. Didn't have to cut the dog open, and it was a less-expensive procedure than surgery, so the owner is bound to be pleased. Good news all around.
Now, it happened that that day we had a reporter at the clinic. We had recently been voted "Best Vet Clinic" of our local area, and the reporter was discussing with the staff what interesting cases we'd had recently. Naturally the pantyhose dog came up, as it was both a bit unusual, and very satisfactorily resolved. For some reason - and I curse the day I heard the story - I mentioned a similar case, several years previously at another hospital. A pair of red fishnet stockings had been extracted from a dog via endoscope. The stockings were proudly presented to the owners when they came to pick up their dog. The wife looked at the stockings, turned to the husband and said, "Those aren't mine."
Well naturally, the reporter thought this story was fascinating, and as I'd not revealed any personally identifying information regarding the clients or the patients in either case, I didn't think much of it. Which just goes to show you that the time you're most likely to stick your foot in your mouth is when you think you've been perfectly discreet.
Later in the day our pantyhose dog's owner came to pick up. He asked to speak to me. I went into an exam room with him and inquired pleasantly what I could do for him.
"I'm really in trouble on this scope thing," he said. "I don't think my wife is going to be too happy."
"Well, but we came in well under the estimate," I said earnestly, "so your wife should be thrilled, actually."
"You don't understand," he said. "My wife doesn't wear pantyhose."
"Umm.... does your dog run loose?" I asked him.
"We have a fenced yard," he tells me.
"Could it have been from something a previous resident left behind?"
"Owned the place for ten years," he says.
Okay, that runs me out of likely exoneratory scenarios. The pantyhose are already recorded in the medical record, which is a legal document, so I can't undo that part of things. "I'm sorry, sir,"I tell him, "But you're on your own. I'm out of ideas."
The man nods, a bit glumly, and takes his dog (buoyantly happy and completely unaware that he's just narc'ed out his dad) out the door with him. I'm thinking: Dude! If you're going to cheat on your wife, don't let the dog eat the incriminating lingerie! And just as a by the way, you shouldn't be cheating on your wife, and there's only so sorry for you I can actually feel, under the circumstances. I'm not going to call your wife at home and volunteer the information, but if the wife asks, I'm not lying to her either.
I didn't think much more about this tale until a few days later when the article about the clinic came out in the paper. The reporter had made mention of the Tale of the Red Fishnets.
Oh, crap, I thought. I hope our pantyhose guy and his wife don't read that story. It isn't about him, but it isn't likely to bring up happy memories. Yikes. Given the timing of the two events, I wish I'd never mentioned the red fishnets. At least not right on the heels of the pantyhose, even though there was no identifying information given. Too coincidental for comfort.
See? It's not only dogs that eat things they shouldn't. Open mouth, insert foot......