The sight of your dog darting underneath the bed with a pair of socks may make a great photo for the family album. But as it turns out, our compulsive chewing companions sometimes bite off more than what they can chew, leading to a trip to the vet. "I once had a patient that swallowed 50 ear buds," says Dr Nambi A P, Head of Medicine at the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). It is for this reason that the animal hospital houses an exclusive department for endoscopy, explains Dr R Prabakaran, Vice-Chancellor of the state-run varsity. As most people would know it, endoscopy is the visual examination of the body's interior using an endoscope — a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera at the tip. Dr Nambi adds, "Most owners aren't even aware that this section of the hospital exists."
However, for pet owners, perhaps a visit to this room will prove educational. The equipment is as one would expect — a surgical bed, a video monitor to track the movement of the foreign object swallowed, and grasping forceps to remove the object safely. But what really stands out is the bulletin board pinned with exhibits that have been removed from previous procedures.
A bright pair of yellow socks sits pretty on top, surrounded by an assortment of other items ranging from a pressure cooker weight to jagged stones, hair balls, a SIM card and a crazy ball. When the object is large, 'basket forceps' are used for the procedure, explains Dr S Kavitha, Associate Professor, in-charge of this department. She elaborates, "Especially, in the case of a round foreign body, this instrument expands like a balloon and clamps around it." She adds later, "We even had a pet owner coming in once with the dog having swallowed his gold ring!"
So what happens if your dog has swallowed an object while you're away? Dr Nambi responds, "Often owners who come to the hospital with their animals vomiting, only to find later that their pet has swallowed something." He elaborates "So vomiting is one of first indicators." That said, he clarifies, this is not to say every time your dog is vomiting, he has swallowed something. This is confirmed only later through an X-ray. "However there are objects that even an X-ray cannot identify," he warns and adds, "linear foreign bodies like audio tapes for example."
Should the question arise as to how long one can afford to wait — given that there is a possibility it could pass out through the bowels, Dr Nambi recommends no waiting at all. He says, "Should the object pass through the intestine, surgery is the only way."
The next time you find your dog chomping down on a cushion, keep a carrot handy and give it to him as a substitute. You never know, it could save you a trip to the vet.
An endoscopic procedure at TANUVAS costs `100.