It is not unusual for vets to retrieve strange objects swallowed by beloved pets, but one curious dog in Tasmania managed to set a complex challenge that seemed impossible to overcome.
- The vet admitted to the dog’s owner he had never before attempted such a difficult procedure
- The two rows of barbs lodged in the dog’s throat proved to be problematic
- The vet and owner both urged people to be mindful of not leaving fishing gear where animals can find it
WARNING: This story contains detail which may distress some readers.
Jo Percey was walking her one-year-old dog, Nala, near their home in Pontville, north of Hobart last week.
They live nowhere near the ocean, but as Nala was trotting along behind, she caught a fishy scent buried in the grass in front of a house.
When Ms Percey turned around, she saw a “funny-coloured object” disappear down Nala’s throat — and the dog reacted almost instantly.
“She was very distraught; she kept clawing at her jaw,” she said.
“Obviously, she was in pain. She kept trying to be sick to try to get it out.”
They rushed to the vet in nearby Claremont, and within 20 minutes, they had the answer on an X-ray screen.
Nala had swallowed a squid jig — a lure designed to mimic a squid, with two umbrella-shaped barbs designed to go in and not back out.
And it had become lodged in one of the worst places possible.
Row of barbs proves tricky
Had the jig settled in Nala’s stomach or become hooked on her lip, vet Daniel Pettet said the procedure would have been relatively straightforward.
Instead, it was stuck on the pharynx in her throat, which meant it could not be removed with an incision.
“The client asked how likely it was we could remove it. To be honest, I’d never done exactly this before,” Dr Pettet said.
A wildlife specialist surgeon with expertise in helping animals that had become entangled in fishing gear was asked for advice.
Not long later, Nala was put under general anaesthetic, and the decision was made to go in through her mouth, avoiding the need for a risky incision.
Tissue had to be slowly and carefully removed from her throat to eventually get the squid jig loose.
“The nasty part was the row of barbs. A lot of tissue was removed; we had to be careful of the tubing for the anaesthetic,” Dr Pettet said.
After 90 minutes, Nala regained consciousness, free of the squid jig’s barbs.
She took some time to recover, having lost a significant amount of tissue from her throat.
“She loves cheese, cheese is her favourite thing, and that’s the only thing we could get her to eat,” Ms Percey said.
“She spent the first three days after the incident having just three or four little bits of cheese. Cheese saved her life.”
After several days of rest, Nala has started to return to her former playful self.
“Yesterday was the turning point I think. She certainly seemed more herself yesterday,” Ms Percey said.
“She’s very lucky. We’re very happy, they’re amazing vets.”
Be careful with fishing gear
A squid jig buried under the grass would not be unexpected in one of Tasmania’s many coastal towns but not so much in an inland suburban street.
“They probably didn’t realise, of course, it’s just dropped down for some reason, and they haven’t realised that it’s sitting in the grass,” Ms Percey said.
Dr Pettet said removing fishing line with hooks attached from animals was not uncommon, but items like lures present different dangers.
“Just make sure these things aren’t out there on the ground like this,” he said.
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