Roxy the two year old Cockapoo

The family household is a busy place, especially in the morning when the boys are getting ready to go to school. One Friday morning recently, everyone was rushing around doing their own preparations. Roxy had been for her usual morning walk, and she was sniffing around the floor, mooching about the place as she does. Nobody was paying much attention to her.

Then all of a  sudden, she started to make gagging noises from where she was lying, underneath a table. Sometimes she does make a couple of coughing noises like this, so at first, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But she kept making the noises, so the boys’ Mum took a look under the table to see what was happening. The first thing she saw was a lot of foamy saliva on the ground beside her, as if she’d been drooling. And as well as gagging, she had started to make a noise like she was trying to spit, and she was pawing at her mouth. Foamy saliva was spilling out of her mouth, and she looked very unhappy. It was immediately obvious what had happened: an AA battery was on the ground at her feet, and there was a puncture mark in it, with the contents of the battery leaking out.

Hugo remembered what had happened: the night before he had taken dud batteries out of a Wii Remote controller, and replaced them with fully charged batteries from the tv remote control. He had left the dud batteries on the low coffee table in their living room. And Roxy must have come along, picked up one of the dud batteries, and chewed it. 

roxy was brought down to the clinic

The boys’ Mum took Roxy out into the back garden immediately, then Googled “what to do if your dog chews a battery” She discovered that it was an absolute emergency, so she phoned our clinic at once, and brought Roxy straight down to us. She was receiving emergency treatment within half an hour of chewing the battery, and the speed of response in acting so quickly probably saved Roxy’s life.

Most batteries – so-called alkaline batteries – contain potassium hydroxide which increases the length of their working life. Potassium hydroxide is a highly corrosive alkali liquid, causing serious burns to any living tissue that it contacts. Batteries are safe as long as they remain intact, but if they are damaged so that their contents leak out, they are very dangerous. 

In recent times, we have all seen the damage that can be caused to human skin by acid attacks, when people throw corrosive liquid at their victim. The strong alkali inside batteries creates very similar burns, but we rarely see these because metal batteries are impenetrable in normal use. They don’t stand up well to an assault with a sharp pointed objects, however. When Roxy chewed the battery, her long pointed canine teeth were able to puncture its metal casing, and that’s when the problem happened: the corrosive alkali liquid leaked out of the battery, and onto Roxy’s tongue and oral cavity.

emergency treatment was needed

As soon as she arrived at the clinic, the admissions nurse took a look at her: she opened her mouth and she could see a bright red area extending over much of the front of her tongue. Roxy had suffered a serious corrosive burn and she needed emergency treatment. She was taken in for the day, and she was given a combination of medications. At this stage poor Roxy was very unhappy: her mouth must have been very painful, and she was quiet and shivery. She could not understand why she was suddenly in so much pain. 

We gave her the standard emergency care for this type of crisis. First, the burnt areas were flushed as best they could be to remove any trace of corrosive agent. Then she was given a special liquid to coat the damaged areas, preventing further irritation.  Importantly, she was given plenty of pain relief, by injection. This was absolutely key: the worst aspect of this experience for Roxy was the pain caused by the corrosive burn to her tongue.

After 24 hours of care at the vet clinic, Roxy was doing well, so she was sent home for the weekend, with pain relieving tablets and medication to soothe the burnt areas of her tongue. It turned out to be a challenge to get her to take her medicine. She didn’t want to eat or drink because her mouth was sore. At first it was easy to give her pain relief tablets, but she learned that every time someone approached her, it was to get a tablet into her, and her tongue was sore. She started to growl and snap when anybody tried to give her anything. It was a long weekend, and the family kept in touch with me by text; I was at least able to reassure them that they were doing the right things.

On Monday morning, she was admitted back into our clinic: we made the decision that it would be easier for her to have continuing medication by injection rather than orally. Roxy seemed happier with this, and she soon stopped growling when people approached her. She stayed with us for two days, and by the time she went home on the Wednesday, she was eating normally again, and she didn’t notice the medication mixed with her food.

Roxy has since made a full recovery, and the burnt area on her tongue looks normal now.  The boys have learned an important lesson: batteries will never again be left within reach of their much-loved dog.

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