VET’S DIARY: Foreign bodies everywhere

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SOMETIMES you get trots of consults where there seems to be a consistent theme running through – apart from the obvious that they are all generally involving sick animals. My Saturday morning block last weekend was just one of these instances, writes Dominic Plumley.

The common thread was things being where they shouldn’t be or in more specific veterinary terms – foreign bodies.

That said, the definition of a foreign body is just about as broad as you can get; basically it can be nearly anything that has wedged itself somewhere, penetrated the skin or even been swallowed to end up where it shouldn’t be and cause some problem.

My first patient, a friendly moggy by the name of Hutch, had a sore eye which, at initial glance, appeared fairly innocuous.

There was no obvious sign of trauma or even any significant amount of swelling, though the lids were closed and it was causing Hutch obvious discomfort. Closer examination showed the internal structures of the eye to be apparently functioning normally; however, just protruding from behind the third eye was what looked like a fine fragment of translucent material.

After application of a little topical local anaesthetic to make the whole eye less sensitive I was just able to grip the visible object with some fine forceps. To my amazement, a gentle pull enabled me to withdraw a complete cat’s nail, some 12-15mm in length.

Hutch had obviously had a bit of a rumble the night before and his combatant had given him a good cuff.

What was remarkable was the lack of any scratches on the outside, the nail must have penetrated the conjunctiva and then detached itself leaving poor Hutch with an unusual foreign body.

Of course, Hutch was incredibly lucky that the nail had not perforated his cornea, an injury that may well have cost him his sight in that eye. Hopefully, now that the offending object has been removed he should be fine.

Next on the list was a limping Labrador called Jess. She had been out on her walks the previous day and about half way round her normal circuit she had started to favour her front right leg.

Assuming a minor strain, Jess’s owners gave her the benefit of a good night’s rest to see if things would improve.

In fact, on the Saturday morning she was worse and very reluctant to put any weight on the affected limb.

A quick feel down the leg localised the pain to Jess’s paw and more specifically the pad of her middle toe.

Like Hutch, at first, the cause of the problem was not initially obvious, though gently paring away the thickened surface of the underside of the pad with a scalpel blade soon revealed all.

I could just make out the end of something penetrating the tissue, the trusty forceps were applied again and the large black thorn easily removed releasing a well of pus that had formed as the toe had gone septic over night.

The relief was almost instant, it is always very rewarding when they hobble into the consult room only to bounce out again on all fours a few minutes later. Some covering antibiotic should ensure Jess has no lasting problems.

Last but not least was a rather elderly crossbreed called Beacon who had been dribbling a lot since the night before and more worryingly for a dustbin dog, off her food.

Beacon was determined to keep her chops firmly shut and was resisting all of my attempts to have a look in her mouth.

Quite literally ‘through gritted teeth’ I could just make out something in the roof of her mouth.

The only way to get Beacon to cooperate was to give her a little sedative and once asleep we were able to remove the sharp fragment of bone that had become wedged between her upper molars.

With a jab to reverse the sedative Beacon was quickly back on her feet and apparently instantly relieved by the removal of her own foreign body.

They do say things come in threes, but having all of these cases together is a little unusual.