Monday, June 20, 2011

Corn Cob: A Tale of Emergency Surgery

A little personal reflection / things I've learned over the last few days:

1. Don't let a raw food diet be an excuse to allow your dog to be your garbage disposal.

2. Don't be blasé about your dog eating a corn cob, especially if there isn't a lot of chewing going on. "He eats weird shit all the time!" isn't a reason to not be concerned.

3. Don't wait two days to go to the vet if said corn cob hasn't quickly reappeared from inside your dog in one form or another.

The short and skinny: Makai swallowed a corn cob Tuesday night - pretty much whole - and had to have emergency surgery to remove it (and some other junk) from his stomach.

I'm going to go into detail about how it all went down, partly for my own catharsis, but also in the hopes that this might help someone else out there someday.

I'll be honest, I feel like complete shit that I didn't realize how serious him eating a corn cob was. I pride myself on knowing everything about what's good and bad for my dog and being a responsible owner, and this was a major mommy fuck up. He's eaten them in the past and has chomped them up pretty good, but by the time it dawned on me, "Hey dummy, what is happening right now is probably not good," he took one big gulp and it was gone.

When the corn cob didn't come out the next day, I was a little worried something might be up, but not overly so. When Makai didn't poop at all two days later, I was getting concerned. When he threw up his breakfast at dinner time on Thursday, I knew something was really wrong. That food should have been long out of throw-up range.

So I called the vet first thing Friday morning and they got him in right away for an x-ray. Everyone came out to see him and wish him luck. It always feels nice that so many people there take time to say hello to him - they've been through a lot with us and he really loves them all - but their concern made me very nervous. They knew what type of road we were about to head down.

The x-ray showed a very, very large stomach, full of food that hadn't been able to get through, and a big object in there with kind of a grid pattern on it - the corn cob chunk. It was essentially acting as a floating plug, blocking all his food from being digested. The good news was that it was still in his stomach. If it was in his intestines it would mean really gnarly surgery. With it in the stomach there was a chance it could just be pulled out.

So we were referred to an emergency clinic in north Seattle that had an Internalist ready to see him right away. We got there and the doctor gave me the scoop: Shmoops would have to be put under for an endoscopy, and she was going to try and grab the cob and pull it back up the way it went in. She was confident she could grab it, but prepared me that surgery was a very real possibility if she couldn't snag it quickly. I had to sign a form that gave them permission to do CPR should something go wrong. Heart breaking.

I sat in the waiting room for an hour, reading old magazines and trying to keep myself busy on Twitter until my phone died. While I was waiting, a man and his daughter came in with her pet guinea pig in a box. They said it had eaten some wood chips and was breathing really slowly. The receptionist looked in the box and noticed the guinea pig wasn't breathing at all. A tech came out and had to confirm to the 9-year-old girl that her beloved pet, named Sonja, was dead. She and her dad cried, and I hid behind my Entertainment Weekly and quietly shed a few tears of my own.

Finally, Makai's doctor came out and told me that she had tried for 15 minutes to pull out the cob, but every time it would get to the esophagus, it would break off. She didn't say it, but immediately I knew that if I had brought him in two days ago, the cob would have been firmer and they probably could have gotten it. God damn it. She didn't want to keep trying and keep him under anesthesia longer than absolutely necessary, so he was being prepped for surgery, and I was devastated.

He's old. Anesthesia alone is risky, but recovering from this type of surgery has lots of risks as well. Not to mention my non existent stomach surgery fund.

I went home and waited for them to call me and let me know how it went. About two nervous hours later I got the call: they opened up his stomach and found about 10 pieces of corn cob, some cardboard, some pieces of wood, and lots of food. Jesus, buddy. After a night of observation I was able to pick him on Saturday afternoon.

He's got about 7 inches of stitches right up the middle of his belly (I'm going to do a post someday about sunblock and dogs - those dark marks are sun spots from his days in the California sunshine). He hurts. He's on pain medication, but it makes him confused and scared and he spends most of his time crying in a soft, high-pitched whine when he's awake. Snuggles on the couch seem to help him fall asleep, and he's more comfortable when he's sleeping.

He can't eat his regular diet for a couple of weeks, so I spent Saturday afternoon cooking simple, super pureed meals for him. Extra digestible for the stitched up tummy.

My fridge and freezer are stocked up with:

+ Turkey with Rice
+ Banana and Turkey with Rice
+ Broccoli, Apple and Chicken with Rice
+ Carrots and Turkey with Rice
+ Sweet Potato and Turkey with Rice (thanksgiving dinner!)

So for now, we just have to take it easy and make sure nothing goes wrong. If he starts vomiting, or gets diarrhea, or god forbid his wound opens, it's back to the ER we go. But he's one hell of a tough dog. He's been through just about everything a dog can, if any pup can make it, it's this one.

Cautiously optimistic...


Mrs. V said...

Aw Schmoops....sending get well wishes from your friends in CA!

Vicki said...

Thanks Erin!

Leslee said...

Poor Schmoops! You are such a good Dog Mommie... He is lucky to have you...

Anonymous said...

My dog has been very ill this week, the vets gave her some meds because she was vomiting ALOT. A few hours later she wouldn't stop fidgeting, and her belly was making all kinds of noises. I took her to the emergency vet, they said to give her some pain killers so she can get a good nights sleep but I asked them to do an xray. I knew something wasn't right. They saw some kind of blockage in her intestine and they operated on her yesterday, turned out to be corn on the cob!! The last time we ate this was two months ago, it had been working its way along for two months and had then got stuck. She is now home, and has a very long line of stitches on her belly. Sending best wishes to your dog :)

Anonymous said...

this was extremely helpful and comforting to read. thanks!

Karen said...

I brought my dog to the emergency care center right away and they still could not fish out the corn cob. And he's a big dog and they tried for quite some time. He's recovering from the stomach surgery as I write this. The bigger risk in delaying is not the lost opportunity to fish it out (endoscopy) because it has become slimmer (I don't know how often endoscopy succeeds anyway) but the real possibility of the cob getting stuck in the small intestine if it moves out of the stomach. That's why time matters.