Friday, March 2, 2012

Candice the Canine and the Mystery Meal by Erin Selby

Dogs really do eat the strangest things. Working in a veterinary hospital, you begin to feel like you have seen it all: plastic, entire chickens – bones and all, chocolate, snail bait, bags of trash, socks, shoes, underwear, rocks (!), nails, and of course their own and other animals’ bodily evacuations (yuck!).  But sometimes even we are caught by surprise by the mysterious contents of a dog’s stomach. Sometimes something that seems safe and even healthy can cause an unexpected visit to the vet.  

Candice, a seven year old Beagle, came to Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care feeling very lethargic and sporting a distended, bloated abdomen. Understandably her owners were concerned, especially after she vomited the night before, so they scheduled an appointment with Dr. Baine.  After examining Candice, Dr. Baine decided to take some abdominal x-rays.  What he found was intriguing. Candice’s stomach was definitely distended due to a large amount of material that was not moving through her intestinal tract. But it was a mystery as to what exactly the material was. It was not apparent on the x-rays whether it was food or some kind of foreign material that was causing the uncomfortable bloating.

What could it be?
The next step was to induce vomiting and get little Candice some relief. Cue the big reveal: bright green peas were the culprit! When Candice’s owner learned what she had eaten, it all made sense - his wife had been using a frozen bag of peas the night before to ice her knee. Obviously Candice could not resist the temptation!  This wasn’t the first time Candice had to see a vet for something she ate; a couple years ago she had to go to the emergency room for eating chocolate. She is quite the little gourmet!

Those are frozen peas!
In general peas are not harmful for dogs and are perfectly fine for them to eat, even frozen ones. But Candice over ate and stuffed herself to the gills. She had a minor case of gastric dilation, otherwise known as food bloat. Her stomach was so stretched out it couldn’t function normally in order to digest the peas, leading to the distended abdomen, lethargy, and vomiting.

While some of her symptoms were similar, Candice did not suffer from Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) or what is also referred to as gastric torsion or bloat. This is a very serious medical emergency where a dog’s stomach twists, thereby trapping air and cutting off blood supply to the organ. This obstructs blood flow to the entire body and very quickly leads to shock and ultimately death.  Large breed dogs and barrel-chested dogs are the most susceptible to GDV. A distended or bloated abdomen, attempting to vomit but can’t, excessive panting and/or pacing are just a few of the possible signs. It is essential to get your dog to a vet immediately if you suspect they have GDV.

Luckily for Candice, she did not have GDV. Her food bloat was not very severe and was easily resolved. She was able to go home the same day, albeit feeling a bit queasy.  In retrospect, since everything turned out okay, it is hard not to have a little chuckle over the idea of an impish Beagle chowing down on a bag of frozen peas. But the ingestion of certain foods, materials, and substances that are potentially harmful is a serious matter. It is important to be aware of what our furry little friends can get into when we aren’t looking and to be quick to respond when they show the first signs of being ill, like Candice’s parents did. We are grateful that we were able to be there for Candice and her family in their time of need and that this story has a happy ending (our favorite kind). And now we can add frozen peas to the list of strange things that dogs eat!

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