It’s much easier to get a cloth elf and a plush teddy bear chew toy into a dog than to get them out.
But out they came, thanks to the combined efforts of more than 20 personnel at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital within the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine just before the winter break. Thor’s care was financed by compassionate care donations through Paws of Honor and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Working and Service Dog Support fund.
A 13-year-old Dutch shepherd and retired police narcotics dog, Thor swallowed the two items — a Christmas decoration and his canine buddy’s favorite chew toy — at the home of owner Chris Sparks sometime on or before Dec. 10.
Thor threw up several times that day, then seemingly returned to normal for a few days before throwing up again on Dec. 13 and 14. By the morning of Dec. 15, Thor was mostly vomiting bile, and Sparks took his dog to a veterinary clinic in Floyd.
“The vet said his pancreas readings were off the charts,” Sparks said, so Thor was treated for pancreatitis.
That seemed to work for a while, but by Dec. 18, Thor was back to vomiting and refusing all food and medicine. “I called my vet’s office but they were closed for the holiday,” Sparks said. “So I spoke with one of the vet techs. I told her there was a sulfur smell when Thor threw up. When I told her that, she said take him immediately to Virginia Tech.”
Because the two items in Thor’s digestive tract were not metallic, X-rays at the veterinary clinic did not identify them. But an ultrasound, performed by radiology resident Michael Ciepluch at the teaching hospital, was able to detect the items in Thor’s stomach and upper intestines.
Timothy Bolton, clinical assistant professor of animal internal medicine, gingerly placed the endoscope into Thor’s esophagus and stomach, getting hold of one item with it and pulling it back out through the dog’s mouth.
“We were able to remove one of the two foreign bodies with the endoscope,” said Blake Andrews, an intern in small animal clinical sciences who was on duty when Thor was brought in. “There was a chance that we could get it with an endoscope and not actually have to do surgery, but the second one was not able to safely come through the esophagus with the endoscope. And, so, at that point, he was moved into an operating room and had surgery to cut into the stomach and get it that way.”