Jade is a typical three year old Doberman: full of energy and continually active. She enjoys exercise and she loves her food, tucking into her breakfast and dinner hungrily.
One morning last week, Jade refused to eat her breakfast, something that had never happened before. And then when Craig offered to take her for a walk, she showed no interest.
Craig didn’t know what was wrong with her, but it had to be something serious. She was so different to the Jade that he knew so well. He brought her to the vet at once.
jade was given a thorough examination
When I examined Jade, she was dull and dejected but there were no other obvious clues about what might be wrong with her. When I felt her abdomen, she tensed up, as if she was uncomfortable, but that’s not a specific sign of anything: there are dozens of diseases that could cause this. I had to do the usual diagnostic work-up to pinpoint what was going on.
I took blood samples first: these showed that her general metabolism was working well, with no sign of liver, kidney or other internal disease. Her blood count showed that there was some sort of inflammation going on inside her, but again, it was nothing specific. The next stage was to take radiographs (x-rays) of her chest and abdomen, and it was when looking at these images that the diagnosis became clear.
Jade’s abdomen was full of abnormal gas shadows, which told me that her intestines were packed full of much more gas than normal. And I could see a suspicious shadow in the middle of her intestines, measuring around 3cm by 5cm. This combination of findings told me what was going on: she had swallowed something which was causing a complete obstruction of her digestive tract. I could not tell what the object was, but it measured 3cm by 5cm, and it was well and truly stuck, causing the massive build up of gas.
jade needed an emergency operation
Jade needed an emergency operation immediately: within half an hour, she was anaesthetised on the operating table while I made a deep incision into her abdomen. It was easy to find the obstruction: her intestines were empty apart from one single large object that had become firmly wedged in place. I had to cut into the intestine to remove this object, carefully suturing the incision closed afterwards, then double-checking that it was a water-tight seal. If any intestinal contents are able to leak out of an intestinal incision, life-threatening peritonitis can follow a few days later. I then sewed up Jade’s abdomen, gave her a high dose of pain relief, and she was taken back to her recovery kennel.
I’d finished the life-saving bit, but what was the large object that I’d just removed? It was hard to tell at first: it was a half-digested dark brown object, covered in digestive juices. I rinsed it under the tap, and it became clear: it was the half-chewed remnant of a piece of corn-on-the-cob. I was not at all surprised: this is one of the most common causes of intestinal obstruction in dogs. It’s something about the pock-marked, rough surface of the cob that causes it to lodge in the digestive tract.
Jade went on to make a full recovery, and she’s back to her normal energy levels and appetite. One thing has changed: Craig has resolved that she will never again have the remotest possibility of chewing a corn-on-the-cob. He still doesn’t know where she found it, but from now on, all corn cobs are being double bagged and placed deep in the wheelie bin, far away from any possible thieving by a hungry dog.
- Corn-on-the-cob is a common cause of intestinal obstruction in dogs
- Urgent surgery is needed to save the lives of dogs with this problem
- Corn cobs should be disposed of carefully, out of the reach of all dogs