That dreaded seaweed again . . .

20190222_141505Although a couple of years ago I learnt the hard way, our lovely vet made it quite clear yesterday that the terrible dangers posed by the seaweed we get along our Northumberland shore are not generally appreciated by those whose dogs habitually gleefully devour it.  Not, that is, until there is a problem. And boy have we had another problem this week.

Both of our retrievers are obsessed by eating the thick kelp we get on the beach here (and which the stupid tourists also keep bringing up into the field). On our morning beach trundle, Barnaby is constantly trying to get his muzzle off and eat it, succeeding from time to time just by determination when the fancy takes him.  On Monday’s morning run, Kemo Sabe couldn’t get over to him quickly enough when she realised what he had done and prevent him from swallowing what was in his mouth. Usually there are no consequences but . . .

20190223_114621.jpgThe first signs that something was wrong came on Tuesday morning, when he had sudden onset vomiting, though he had nothing in his stomach to being up other than saliva, though the reflex was very dramatic and he declined visibly, not wanting to eat anything. After consulting the vet and being reassured over the phone early on, Kemo Sabe soon rang again as poor Barney continued to try to be sick and because he was just not himself. A hundred pounds’ worth of treatment later she brought him home, reassured that little seemed wrong that would not soon be rectified but the following day, he was worse and by then hadn’t eaten for two days. He looked and seemed so despondent, so before the vet was even open, off they went to seek further investigation.

20190223_115019Although X-rays didn’t indicate the presence of a foreign body in Barnaby’s gut, the vet thought it prudent to investigate surgically because she could see gas in the ileum; inside they found the two chunks of seaweed in the picture above, and the damage already inflicted by the spiky root. Peritonitis. As you may recall, a few years ago I also had seaweed removed from my tummy, but by comparison that was a fairly straightforward (and much cheaper) procedure. Barnaby’s operation was much more complex, involving flushing the gut and removal of some damaged bowel.  He spent two whole days on intravenous medication and liquids and is now on six different types of pills but, thank God, he is happily hungry again, enjoying easy walks on the lead and  seems to be making a good recovery.  The only thing that matters is that he has returned to us – with a relatively small scar, considering that his digestive system has had to be rearranged – when, for an anxious post-operative time, we all thought we might lose him. Dearest Barnaby, welcome home. I can’t tell you how worried we all were.



Enemy within

20160826_062148First thing this morning, ten days after my operation, I re-joined the others on our dawn beach trundle. To welcome me, a golden yolk of a sun crept above the horizon and blessed our little band, reunited once more. It seemed so long since I was last on the sand with the boys, that Thursday morning when I felt so utterly poorly that I merely trotted along disconsolately behind Kemo Sabe, the spirit willing but my tummy weak. Of course, she could tell and we went again to the vet, who first made me dream and, while I was dreaming, made me better.   Inside me he found a terrible thing, stuck in my small intestine. No wonder I couldn’t stand the idea of eating my meaty meals and, though tempted with all sorts of trifles, I could stomach nothing. I was not physically sick; I had no diarrhoea; I was simply not myself.

20160819_174306And when you see how big the foreign object was, it’s not hard to see why. The vet explained that seaweed, the cause of this particular obstruction, doesn’t show up in X-rays but years of experience enable them to interpret the shadows and bulges in the bowel as trapped wind around it, betraying its presence. Having removed this horror – almost as thick as it was long – he felt three more pieces making their way along the colon but left them for Nature to take care of (which it did on the Saturday night). One doesn’t want to dig further into the bowel than is absolutely necessary.

20160820_070146Seaweed is many dogs’ favourite naughty thing up here (it is Newman’s favourite thing in the whole world!) and it’s much more to the retrievers’ liking than mine; it is unfair, and ironic, that I should have been the one to suffer so when Newman and Barnaby have eaten so much more of it, all of it apparently having passed through their systems, no matter how challenging the size of the pieces.  But that week I admit did rather go for it and now I understand why its consumption makes Kemo Sabe so angry with us and why I, too, now have to wear the ghastly black Baskerville muzzle, two sizes smaller than the bigger boys. Only little Nico is still free of the indignity and long may that continue.

Though wearing a muzzle gives the wrong impression and isn’t attractive – apart from anything else, they look faintly ridiculous on gundogs – they do the job and that is what matters much more than undergoing major operations on a regular basis, with all the danger that entails. Only last week at my first post-op check-up I met a Jack Russell who’d had three ops for blockages, the latest for a peach stone, and in the paper there was news of a dog who’d had the better part of his intestinal tract removed in order to rectify the damage done by a corn cob he’d stolen from a barbecue. Many dog owners are blissfully ignorant of the dangers of seaweed – which together with corn cobs and fruit stones are the single biggest cause of operations on dogs locally – so let my story be lesson to you. Surveillance of our every move has intensified still further, but that is because we must be guided towards our own good and, though humble creatures of exceptional gifts, these do not include a sensible approach to snacking!