Kitty, a tiny Maltese mix, presented to the UTVMC ER Service one evening for acting strangely at home. She had been discharged two days earlier after surgery to remove a stone from her bladder. The owners reported that she had done fine since coming home, right up until that evening. Before I could really concentrate on getting more information from them, I just had to ask how a dog ended up being named Kitty. Her owner chuckled, and informed me that their small daughter had called her that when she was first adopted from the shelter, and the name just stuck. Then I moved on to more important matters. It seemed that Kitty was completely normal all day and as they were cleaning up after supper they noticed that she ate something off the floor. The only thing the owner could remember being on the floor was a crouton, and it seemed that immediately after Kitty consumed this she ran to the back of the house. The owners followed her and found her in a hunched position, trembling, and breathing very rapidly. They immediately called us and headed in with Kitty, thinking she could be having a surgical complication.
Kitty actually seemed very normal on her physical examination, just timid and nervous about being back in the hospital. We decided to do some x-rays of her chest and abdomen, especially with her history of recent surgery and reported abnormal breathing at home. Kitty was quite the champ for her imaging, and once the views were performed I took a gander at them.
“Well, the belly looks fine, but what is that in her chest? Is something in her esophagus?” I said aloud. Wanting to double-check my opinion, I discussed the x-rays with our radiologist on call. He confirmed that there was definitely something strange about the esophagus and offered to come in to perform a special real time x-ray called fluoroscopy to watch contrast move through the esophagus as Kitty swallowed. This test confirmed our suspicion, as we could see the contrast agent moving to either side of something round in the tail end of her esophagus before making its way into her stomach. I went to discuss the next steps with Kitty’s owners. She would need endoscopy of her esophagus immediately to remove whatever the offending agent was, as the longer it stayed there the more it could irritate and possibly cause a stricture of the sensitive tissue. The owners agreed to move forward, and our anesthesia and medicine services reported to prepare for the procedure.
Less than an hour later we all waited anxiously to see what the scope would reveal. Our bets were on a crouton, but we were all surprised when the internist scanned the area and something round and orange appeared through the camera.
“Is that a carrot?” Someone exclaimed excitedly, as the internist grabbed the structure with the scope and retrieved it. Sure enough, it was a large, ridged cooked carrot! I called the owners to let them know once Kitty was in recovery, and they remembered their daughter had carrots for supper that night. We all had a good laugh, and Kitty went home as good as new a few hours later thanks to an observant family that noticed her distress so quickly.
(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)