We usually expect holidays to be interesting at the UT-VMC ER Service and this past New Year’s Day was no exception. It had been a busy morning when I arrived for my evening shift. There was a patient waiting to be seen as soon as I put my things away.
“Hey Dr. Rainey! I’ve got Marcy the poodle here that needs to be examined and admitted,” the fourth year veterinary student said cheerfully when I arrived in the triage room.
“You sure are peppy for having been here all day! I like your enthusiasm,” I told the student, who would end up being one of my favorites as well as winning our ER award for the year. She smiled and began telling me about our new little charge. She was a few years old but still looked like a puppy with short curly hair the color of coffee after adding a good amount of creamer. I could tell she didn’t feel well. She just laid on the exam table for much of her physical, only objecting to my palpation of her abdomen and her temperature being obtained. The student relayed to me that the tiny dog had come in for vomiting. Although, the owners could not think of a single thing she could have gotten into.
We discussed with the owners that we needed to perform x-rays of Marcy’s abdomen to determine why she felt so crummy and to see if there was any possibility that she had consumed something that was causing a blockage of her GI tract. This happens quite commonly in dogs and cats. Many times owners have no idea that their pet has ingested an incriminating item. They immediately agreed, as they were quite worried about their pet. Sure enough, the x-rays told a story that up until that point had been Marcy’s secret. Judging by the patterns of gas in her small intestines, it appeared something was causing quite a severe blockage.
After explaining the situation to her owners, we put the wheels into motion to get Marcy into surgery. Our on-call surgery and anesthesia personnel were notified as we placed an intravenous catheter to give Marcy fluids and pain medication. Within the hour she was in surgery. Whenever we have a patient with a foreign object in the GI tract, we usually talk among ourselves about what it could be. This time we couldn’t really come up with a very good guess based on the x-rays. Since the owners had no idea either, we were out of luck.
When Marcy rolled out of surgery a few hours later, we couldn’t wait to ask the surgeon what he had found, but only after making sure she was recovering appropriately.
“She’s doing great; and you’ll never believe this,” he said with a grin, as he brandished a minuscule, smooth, brown object contained within a plastic bag.
“It’s a peanut,” the student exclaimed. I saw she was right as I took a closer look at the bag. It’s one of the smallest items I have seen cause a problem. But in a tiny dog it was just the right size. The “Peanut Poodle,” as Marcy became known, did very well and was discharged a few days later. Although, she is one of the patients we all remember fondly.
(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.)