Hamish, a bright and healthy West Highland White Terrier was out in his owner’s garden when he suddenly became very unsettled and started to gag and retch. Fortunately one of our medicine clinicians Charlotte Dye was able to help.
His owners realised that he had scavenged an old rawhide chew which had become lodged in his throat and they rushed him to their local vets. By the time they arrived the chew had blocked his airway causing him to have severe breathing problems as well as persistent choking.
The local vets anaesthetised him immediately and managed to dislodge the chew from his airway which is likely to have saved his life. However, the chew subsequently migrated into his oesophagus (the tube responsible for propelling food from the mouth to the stomach). This resulted in marked discomfort and persistent retching.
Along with this complication, chest x-rays revealed significant pulmonary oedema (fluid build-up within the lungs) as a consequence of the acute asphyxia. Hamish was therefore referred to us as an emergency for ongoing management.
On arrival Hamish was quiet and very unsettled with constant grunting and whining. He was also retching intermittently and expectorating white froth. He was anaesthetised immediately and a video endoscope was used to examine his throat and oesophagus.
This confirmed the presence of a foreign body lodged very firmly in the oesophagus. The endoscope was used to guide large metal forceps towards the foreign body and eventually we were able to grab the chew firmly enough to drag it out via the mouth.
Hamish came round from his anaesthetic without complication and, needless to say, felt a lot better. He was hospitalised overnight for observation, in particular to ensure that his breathing was stable, and since he was bright and well in himself, was discharged the following day.
Examination of Hamish’s oesophagus after removal of the foreign body had identified some traumatic damage to the underlying tissue which can predispose to oesophageal strictures (excessive scar tissue development resulting in obstruction to the passage of food).
Prophylactic treatment using sucralfate and drugs that reduce gastric acid was started in an attempt to prevent this and Hamish went on to make a full and uneventful recovery. His owners have been advised that Hamish can now be fed as usual but that any large treats should be avoided!