String theory for pets (or, how to handle linear foreign bodies)
Posted Nov 29 2009 10:00pm
Gastrointestinal foreign bodies (AKA, things our pets should not have ingested) always get a lot of play in the weeks leading up to the December holidays. This is especially true for the linear version of the foreign bodies we love to hate: those strings, ribbons and flosses we irrationally employ with wild abandon during this time of the year.
Whether we're talking Christmas tree tinsel (which should be outlawed for reasons of safety and taste, IMO), gift-wrap ribbons, miscellaneous decorative accents, lighting accoutrements, the ubiquitous power cords or misplaced craft ingredients, it's all potential gastrointestinal fodder.
That's why veterinarians love to tell you to steer clear of these items. Every season, we inform you that the last thing we want is to cut stuff out of your pets' intestines. Sure, your pet's misfortune may help me pay for my upcoming trip to Orlando but the converse scenario definitely bodes ill for your holiday budget.
This year, however, the misfortune was almost my own.
There I was, happily knitting away on a simple cashmere scarf I'd planned as a holiday gift...when a gentle tug on the yarn (a mechanical gesture intended to draw more material into needle range) revealed the absence of any slack. Looking down towards my stash-bag, there he was: Slumdog, looking up at me with a silly expression and a lilac strand of cashmere exiting his little black mug.
Engrossed as I was watching the pilot for Breaking Bad on my laptop (totally worthwhile, btw), I'd somehow neglected to notice he'd engaged in this yarn-consuming behavior.
Worst of all, unknown quantities of the yarn were down the gullet while the rest poked out his mouth as he continued to goofily chew it down. Another gentle tug revealed that most of the yarn was already well beyond my ability to retrieve it without damaging sensitive structures.
How much yarn? It was hard to tell. That's when I cut my losses and pulled out the scissors, slicing off as much of the yarn as I could as close to his mouth as I could. I then measured the remaining yarn, estimating how much might have gone down based on how much of the yarn I'd incorporated into the scarf and how much I had left (just a very rough estimate, you know?).
Because I'd managed to account for all but a yard or two, I figured that most would be sitting in the stomach right about now. So what's an owner to do in these cases? Here were my choices:
1) I could take him in to my boyfriend's specialty hospital and have the yarn extracted with an endoscope (not always possible and it was a late Saturday afternoon––tough timing, staff-wise).
2) I could make him throw it up (inadvisable for a linear foreign body since a long, multi-location piece might mean damage to the stomach, esophagus or intestines as it's hurled).
3) I could do nothing and just hope to God it passed. For good measure, I would administer large chunks of readily digestible stuff to facilitate a happy stomach exit of the whole shebang.
So I chose door number three and waited. And waited. I really should have taken a couple of X-rays to gauge his normal intestinal pattern pre-obstruction (just in case, you know) but it was Thanksgiving weekend and calling in some favors was going to cost me dearly. Waiting to see if it passed or obstructed him (as would be evidenced by vomiting, inappetance, lethargy, etc.) was my plan.
Luckily, the entire loop-de-looped bit of nastiness finally made its exit last night. I submit it here for your holiday season consideration...as cautionary tale. (Yes, the bag actually says "Thank You.")
All I can say in my defense is that, in the end, at least it didn't cost me much. And I got a post out of it, to boot.