Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dog Swallows Fishing Hook, Survives

A recent fishing trip out on the Tchefuncte River in Covington, Louisiana nearly turned disastrous when my two year old male pit bull mix Tank found a jug from a previous fishing adventure that was attached to about three feet of twine with a #4 steel fishing hook at the end of it. The hook still had a dead, dried-up shrimp attached to it from a previous fishing trip that was somehow overlooked while cleaning out the boat.

Needless to say, the dog found the jug with the dried-up shrimp on the end of it and proceeded to swallow the shrimp (and the hook). A friend alerted me to the fact that my dog was trying to eat a fishing hook, but by the time either of us could maneuver our way to the opposite end of the boat (where the dog was stationed), he had already completely swallowed it and had moved on to swallowing the twine connecting the hook to the jug.

Fat Lester's Pit Bull Mix "Tank"
In a split-second decision, I decided against attempting to dislodge the hook, figuring that it would be better to have the hook loose in his stomach than stuck inside his throat or esophagus. He is a large dog (90 pounds or so), but it was a large hook, and the risk of exacerbating the problem only increased with the prospect of an amateur like myself attempting to dislodge a fishing hook from a dog's stomach.

Instead of trying to get the hook out, I immediately grabbed the jug and cut the twine where there was slack at the end nearest the jug so as to not tug on the twine and risk setting the hook inside my dog's stomach. From there, I rushed the boat back to the dock and immediately took the dog to the veterinary ER (emergency room) on Florida Street in Mandeville, Louisiana.

After admitting him to the doggie ER, the doctor proceeded to ask me for a full account of what happened, and I was more than willing to comply, providing her with every seemingly insignificant detail of the event. From there, she proceeded to x-ray Tank to confirm my statement that I was sure I had not inadvertently pulled the twine enough to set the hook inside the dog's body. Sure enough, by the good grace of God the hook was still in the dog's stomach.  It had not been set (piercing beyond the barb so as to lock the hook in place), and had not yet entered the animal's intestines. This, as luck would have it, would turn out to be his saving grace.

The fishing hook swallowed by Fat Lester's dog Tank
Because the hook was still loose inside the dog's stomach, the vet was confident enough about the situation to attempt an upper endoscopy to remove the hook. Given that the alternative was a pretty serious surgery to go in through the dog's belly, cut open his stomach and remove the hook, Tank's fate rested in the potential success or failure of the endoscopy procedure.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, an endoscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure used to examine a patient's esophagus, stomach and duodenum using a thin, flexible tube known as an endoscope that can transmit images from inside the patient's body to a TV monitor for an up-close, zoomed-in view. The device can be equipped with additional devices that can do such things as grab or latch onto small objects inside the patient's upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract.

An endoscope is a piece of diagnostic medical equipment used to perform endoscopies (the procedure defined above involving the lowering of the flexible, camera-equipped tube into the patient's upper digestive tract).

Anyway, the doctor briefed me on the situation prior to attempting the procedure. She informed me that if unsuccessful, she would have to perform surgery in order to save the dog, and I granted her approval to take whatever necessary actions needed to be taken in order to save the dog. She assured me that she would not perform surgery unless the endoscopy procedure failed.

Much to my relief, about two hours after leaving the veterinary emergency clinic, I received a phone call from the vet stating that the procedure was a success, my dog was doing fine and was recovering, and that I could come by the next morning to pick him up and settle up on my bill, which came out to more than $1,300.00. She advised against going to pick him up that night, as he was fairly heavily sedated with buprenorphine and was better off spending the night under the supervision of caring animal health professionals in the event something should go wrong in the hours following the procedure.

We had no such bad luck, and the next morning at 9:00 I went back to the animal ER and picked up my dog, who by then had worked up quite an appetite and was extremely happy to see me.

Thanks Dr. Stockton for helping save my dog!

Dr. Donna Stockton: Veterinarian who saved Tank Dog

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