Dogs eat laces, grass

There's money to be made in scooping poop

Our neighbor’s dog, Wolfie, will eat anything. Last week, he was
straining and felt sick. Mike (our neighbor) saw a shoelace that
Wolfie was trying to pass. Mike called the vet and they insisted
that he bring the dog to the clinic. Several hundred dollars later,
Wolfie is home and doing fine. Why couldn’t Mike just pull the lace
and remove it? Was the visit to the vet necessary?
Q: Our neighbor’s dog, Wolfie, will eat anything. Last week, he was straining and felt sick. Mike (our neighbor) saw a shoelace that Wolfie was trying to pass. Mike called the vet and they insisted that he bring the dog to the clinic. Several hundred dollars later, Wolfie is home and doing fine. Why couldn’t Mike just pull the lace and remove it? Was the visit to the vet necessary?

A:

Some dogs will chew and swallow just about anything. Most of the time, all that’s eaten is passed without incident. But we all know the obvious consequences if it’s a large ball or sizeable piece of cloth. Some of you probably know of someone’s dog that had an obstruction and needed surgery to clear the blockage.

But string, fishing line or shoelaces present another problem that’s often overlooked. Veterinarians refer to these as linear foreign bodies, and they can be very dangerous. Clearly, Wolfie needed to be seen and treated by his veterinarian. Here’s why.

Linear foreign bodies that lay across a section of the bowel elicit a dramatic response by the intestines. The bowel contracts forcefully, squeezing on the lace or string, trying to get it to move out to the back end. The contractions cause that linear object to start rubbing, actually cutting into the wall of the large intestine. Had Mike tried to pull on that lace, he could have lacerated the wall of intestine, potentially causing a perforation and sepsis. I know of several dogs that have died as a result of infection from this ill-advised, aggressive treatment.

So what does a veterinarian do with a case like this? First, a sedative or general anesthetic is administered so that the intestinal tract can relax and stop contracting. Then a lubricating enema is given to dilate the bowel and to make the area slippery so that the string can be removed. And sometimes, even this is not enough to safely extract the string. In tough cases, surgery is still the only way to safely remove long linear objects.

I’m sure Wolfie’s vet had his best interest at heart with his treatment plan. Frustrating as it may seem, things could have been a lot worse.

Q:

Our young puppy, Mattie, is always eating grass and dirt. Is this a sign of a mineral deficiency or some other nutritional problem?

A:

Generally speaking, dogs aren’t vegetarians. But Mattie’s proclivity to graze isn’t unusual at all. Lots of young pups will do this, much the same as young children who put unusual things in their mouth. It’s youthful exploration at its best, and as a rule, it’s essentially harmless (unless there’s a string attached – see the previous question).

Your question serves as a reminder that all dogs, especially puppies, should always be on a good parasite control plan. Eggs of various parasites are found in the soil everywhere. Make sure Mattie has a fecal examination done every year and be sure to give preventive medication to protect against heartworm disease. That way, Mattie can chomp on grass with minimal risk.

Q:

How many years of college does a veterinary student spend in school? Do veterinarians have to specialize in a certain field when they go to school?

A:

First, let me remind everyone of how wonderful a career in this field can be. It takes a large amount of dedication, but the rewards are equally great. A pre-veterinary student takes classes for about four years before applying to a vet school. Most of these young people earn a bachelor’s degree. Veterinary school itself is a four-year program that is very intense. Life is busy for a vet student, much the same as that of a student studying to become an M.D. I can tell you that this busy life in school passes quickly, mainly because the subject matter is so very interesting.

So it’s roughly eight years of school. But once out of school, there are many career options for a new veterinarian. (Specialization is not required; it’s only an option.) The rewards for all that hard work are huge. So if anyone is interested in a career in my chosen field, I recommend talking with a school advisor or counselor. This is a noble profession and DVM graduates have literally thousands of different job opportunities.

Leave your comments