Echo’s Story – why dogs shouldn’t be fed bones!

Echo’s owner became concerned when she began vomiting for no apparent reason. When presented at the practice Echo was given a full physical examination, including her abdomen, but it was difficult to palpate anything untoward as she was obviously feeling tender and not very relaxed meaning her abdomen was quite tight. However, Echo’s owner mentioned that she had given her a bone to eat two days previously, and it was at this point alarm bells started to ring!

We admitted Echo for xrays straight away and took different views of the abdomen which revealed that there was a foreign body in her intestine. Although at this point we couldn’t say for certain, we were fairly sure that it was a piece of bone due to the owner having fed one and that fact that they often become lodged when eaten.

After updating Echo’s owner on our findings she gave us the go ahead to perform a exploratory laparotomy, the technical term used for making an incision into the abdomen and methodically looking at the organs, including the intestines in order to find any foreign bodies that may be present. Although we had only seen the one foreign body on Echo’s x-rays it did not mean that this would be the only foreign body we would find once we started looking.

When animals undergo an exploratory laparotomy there is always a small risk of infection,cocoon pic 3 and particularly so if we need to open the intestines or stomach. Care has to be taken that we do not spill any of their contents inside the abdomen as this can cause complications post-operatively. It is for this reason we take precaution and give antibiotics both during the procedure itself and for a number of days afterwards. We also lavage, or flush, the abdomen out with sterile saline once we have finished our investigations to help ensure any contents that have spilt are washed away. This can also present us with a slight complication; the animal’s body temperature can drop dramatically. To help keep a constant temperature we place our patients in a Cocoon (continuously heated blanket), wrap their feet in bubble wrap, and cover any other exposed parts of their body with blankets.

In Echo’s case, due to the foreign body being lodged in the small intestine, the Vet performed an enterotomy (an incision made directly into the small intestine) so that she could take the foreign body out. The Vet removed a large piece of bone which had sharp edges on all sides. Even if this had been a smaller piece of bone that managed to move itself through it would probably have caused some damage to the inside of the intestines along the way with its sharp edges.


Thankfully Echo’s owner was very vigilent and brought her to see us very quickly, otherwise her story may have turned out differently. With the support of antibiotics, anti-inflammtory medication and lots of love at home Echo is making a good recovery!

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