Jon Geller, D.V.M.,, Dipl ABVP  
Ft. Collins, CO

Specialties: Canine and Feline Medicine

Interests: Urgent Care, Emergency care, critical care
Veterinary Emergency Hospital
970 484-8080
Ft. Collins, CO
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In the ER: A Unicorn's Journey

Nov 03, 2009 - 3 comments


Frank loved to eat things. As a stout one-year old Lab, eating is what he lived for. Living with a family that included 6 yr old quadruplets supplied him with plenty of objects of his desire. His family reported finding lost clothing, toys and other random items in his stool.  Frank avoided any serious issues with his indiscriminate eating habits until one night last month, when Frank decided to swallow a Beanie Baby unicorn, whole.
After vomiting for 24 hours, and losing his famous appetite, Frank’s owners knew something was wrong. X-Rays at our emergency hospital showed a strange bulge in his intestine, with a triangular object encircling it. Large pockets of gas upstream from the blockage confirmed that he had a surgical problem, and off to surgery he went.
Our emergency veterinarians opened a piece of Frank’s intestines up, and  found the Beanie Baby unicorn without even a tooth mark on it. Frank must have wolfed it down as if it was a cocktail mini-hot dog. Wrapped around the unicorn, perhaps substituting for a piece of bacon, was a rubber band, which is what showed up as a triangle on the XRays.
Frank had about a foot of devitalized intestines removed, and then the remaining ends were sutured back together, and he was closed up. The next day, as Frank recovered from his surgery, we discussed strategies for preventing future recurrences.
“ How about a cage muzzle?” I suggested, and the owner agreed it would be a good idea, considering the chaos that usually ruled at his house. With five children running around with the Frankster, the availability of a pair of stray socks, underwear or even another Beanie Baby, was inevitable. Frank went home the next day with his owner, the intact Beanie Baby cutely enclosed in a plastic baggie, perhaps destined to be displayed on the fireplace mantle.
We did not expect to see Frank back at our hospital, but one week later he was sick again. He was lethargic and not eating, and one look into his eyes would tell you he was not feeling well. He was clearly, please excuse the expression, “sick as a dog.” Repeat X-Rays were suspicious for another blockage, and ultrasound confirmed it the next day. Frank went back to surgery at his regular veterinarian’s clinic, where a large wad of impacted grass, as well as more intestine, was removed. Apparently, he had been grazing in the yard, despite the cage muzzle.
Hopefully, we have seen the last of Frank. He doesn’t have much in the way of intestines to spare. Every time a dog undergoes repeat surgery, adhesions can form on the surface of their intestines, causing them to stick together. Any previous surgery site can shrink down into a stricture, creating the risk of future blockages. Frank’s family will have to be diligent about keeping his cage muzzle on, and ensure that all he eats is dog food. This should help guarantee that the family’s remaining Beanie Bay collection remains intact. Maybe Frank’s owners could sell it to cover some veterinary bills.

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by ginger899, Nov 03, 2009
I didn't know eating grass could be so dangerous! My dog occasionally chomps on a bit of soft grass (she seems to choose the soft new growth) I let her because I thought a little grass wouldn't harm her, she might even feel she needs it...?

Eating grass is considered a normal behavior in dogs, and usually would not be dangerous. In Frank's case, his intestines were already compromised, so it became a problem. By the way, numerous scientific studies have failed to confirm a reason that dogs eat grass, so assume they just like to do it!

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by Tammy2009, Nov 03, 2009
I have a similar problem with my 3 year old maine coon cross (The one in my picture).  He eats everything off the floor!!  Fingernail clippings, fluff, garbage everything.  

Normally he only gets loose stools from it but yesterday he had liquid stools, vomiting (hairball, food and grass) and excessive drooling and quiet.  Almost took him in but he started to improve and was bad to normal within an hour of me noticing the symptoms.  When I woke up he was covering in loose stools (obviously stepped on it in the litterbox, plus on the back of his legs, bum and tail) and his mane was soaked from the drooling.  He was outside before I woke up since my mom was up.  Plus he is leashed and possibility to get into any neighbours poision or anything.

He is very mad that the grass is dead now, both of my cats graze on it in the summer (Boomer was "taught" by my older cat).  So I'm thinking the drooling was because of the possible endotoxins present from high funal levels (we have problems with mushrooms every year, even when it's not that wet).  

However, there is no such thing as a cage muzzle for a cat (unforunately!), so the best I can do now is watch him from the window and interrupt his dining on the grass.  

Animals are so much work!  They are lucky they are so cute.  

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