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Intussusception in Dogs and Puppies
We had no idea that within a few weeks of his adoption, Tony would suffer from a serious disorder known as Intussusception. When this always-hungry, happy and active pup began to refuse food, vomit a bile-like mucus, and show no interest in his surroundings we knew we had to take action.
Intussusception refers to an inflammation of the intestines, a portion of the intestine that has slipped out of its normal place (prolapse), and a portion of the intestine that has folded (invagination)."— Pet MD
Finding the Right Puppy
When we looked for a dog to add to the family, we were determined to find a good match for our ten year old Cookie. After having some issues in the past with our late Chow Mix who was territorial, we knew that finding the right temperament in a puppy would be critical.
At the SPCA, we found two black Lab mix puppies that were around two months old. The larger male was sleeping on top of his sibling, a female. The loud barking that our visit incited didn't seem to rouse them. That told us this guy was a sound sleeper.
Having been neutered and administered his puppy shots, he was ready for a forever home. From the moment I held him in my arms, there was no doubt he was the one for us.
Most of our other pets came to us in the rural area where we live. Over the years there have been dozens of strays who wandered to our doorstep abandoned, hungry and neglected. There was a variety of Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Dalmatians, Chows, Australian Shepherds, and even a family of Labradors with their four pups, among others that we weren't able to keep. After losing three of our four dogs to old age, we were ready for another one.
The adoption process seemed to take forever as I held him tightly in my arms. As the staff took our information and filled out forms, it was hard to keep my mind off the adult dogs whose pleading barks could still be heard. Many older dogs wouldn't be as lucky as this guy. Undaunted by the prospect of leaving his litter mate, he planted a kiss on my chin.
Finally, we were given a folder filled with care instructions, canine coupons and a small bag of puppy food. Flourishing our brightly colored, purple leash we headed out, eager to get home and let him meet Cookie.
Tony Meets Cookie
We scheduled a same-day appointment to see our veterinarian who has cared for our pets for fifteen years. She struggled to find anything specifically wrong. He had no fever, no sign of ingesting pesticides and no worms. Tony's symptoms might fit a number of different issues.
The vet told us that Labs tend to chew on anything and everything. To rule out ingestion of a foreign object she took a lateral x-ray. This revealed only a gas pattern and no evidence of a swallowed object like a toy, a rawhide or a squeaker. Tony was given an anti-nausea injection and we took him home.
We left the Veterinarian's office on Monday hoping to see some improvement in Tony. Though it was nice not getting chewed on by his sharp little teeth, it was disturbing to see how lethargic and disinterested he was acting.
Tuesday night I slept downstairs, awakened hourly to find him waiting at the door to go outside. In spite of eating nothing for two days Tony continued to have diarrhea. He ran out, took care of business and ran back inside to his bed.
The next morning I called the Vet for some anti-diarrhea medicine.
By Wednesday afternoon I made up my mind to check Tony into the hospital rather than pick up more medicine. I hated leaving him overnight, but that's where he needed to be now. He looked up at me with pitiful eyes when I handed him to the vet tech. I cried all the way home.
Thursday morning as soon as the phones were being answered, I called the hospital. They said Tony was acting like a puppy and seemed back to normal. According to them he had eaten last night and this morning. Tony could go home.
While we were out taking care of human ailments, I missed the first two calls from the vet who left messages on the home answering machine. By the time we left our doctor's appointment, there was a new voice mail on my cell phone. I called the vet's office to tell them we were headed over to pick up Tony when the doctor got on the line.
"Tony's not coming home," she said. My heart stopped for a second then I felt the impact of her next statement. "We're taking him in for emergency surgery."
Tony After Surgery
Tony was taken in for exploratory abdominal surgery that afternoon. The vet believed Tony had intussusception and felt surgery would stabilize his irregular intestinal spasms. We were stunned that our four-month old puppy was having such a struggle.
The house was once again way too quiet without Tony's antics, playing and jumping and trying to stuff toys into the back of Cookie's head. We paced the floor and tried to remain positive. I called the clinic a few times after hours to check up. No one answered the phone. Soon I stopped calling, fearing the worst. It was a long night.
The Road to Recovery
Intussusception is the most common cause for bowel obstruction in children and is often seen in puppies too. Our vet explained that the intestine telescopes back into itself causing an area of tubing to overlap. If left untreated, this can lead to cellular death of the overlapped section, the onset of infection and eventually death. Most cases have no known cause.
Given prompt attention, this disorder can be repaired. The first course of action often taken is an air or barium enema which reveals the condition and sometimes actually fixes the damage and no further treatment is needed. The barium series did not fix Tony so they began exploratory surgery on his abdomen.
Tony and Cookie - The Watchers
Sachse Veterinary Hospital
The surgery was successful in restoring the intestine to the proper position and Tony came through the operation fine. His behavior soon returned to his normal puppy playfulness.
His two week recovery after surgery included restricted outdoor activities and walks on a leash. The vet prescribed a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice to help his intestines return to their normal rhythm. At the end of two weeks his stitches were removed and we were thrilled that he didn't mess with them or need an Elizabethan collar.
Thanks to our wonderful veterinarians, Tony is back to normal enjoying his days as a happy go lucky puppy. Their quick diagnosis and immediate action undoubtedly saved his life.
Tony at Five
A new day dawns following the loss of his companion, Cookie. His loneliness and grief drove us back to the SPCA where we found his new little brother, a six month old puppy we named Indiana Jones. They spent a brief one day adjustment period before they became fast friends. Now, they're inseparable, enjoying each day for whatever it brings.
Truly, this is the best outlook and a lesson we can learn from our pets.
Tony and His New Friend
Have you ever adopted a dog or cat from the SPCA?
© 2010 Peg Cole