13 February 2008

up to her old tricks

Clumber spaniels are known for trying to consume a variety of interesting non-food objects and Penguin is no exception. In fact, she has had two surgeries for "foreign-body removal" and I have lost count of how many times she has eaten something, or caused us to suspect she had. As a result, I have learned a thing or two about what to do in this kind of situation. 

My plan of attack varies by situation. If I catch her in the act and the item is swallowed before I can grab it, salt is the best solution. That is what works for us. 1 teaspoon of salt on her tongue causes her to vomit within about 5 minutes. A common remedy is hydrogen peroxide but I tried that a couple of times with Penguin and it never worked. (Note: It is very important to consult your veterinarian before administering any of the treatments mentioned here.)

If I suspect she has eaten something but I don't know for sure I just watch her very, very carefully for any signs of an obstruction. Depending on my level of certainty, I might start giving her laxatone at mealtime. Laxatone is a hairball medication for cats but it works well to grease up the works, allowing things to pass more easily. This was successful once when Penguin swallowed a fairly large piece of a Greenie, the last one she was ever allowed to have.

So what other things has Penguin consumed? In her first surgery, three items were found: a squeaker she stole from a handler at a show, the rubber rim from a spaniel bowl, and a wire twist-tie. We know the squeaker was in her belly at least six months, and the rubber rim at least three. Her second surgery, just four months later, was scarier. She had pantyhose and I have heard of at least one other Clumber who died after eating those. Our vet felt strongly she would have lost a good bit of intestine, if not worse, had we waited even another hour to do the surgery. After that second round our vet suggested we install a zipper, or perhaps a little velcro, instead of stitching her up in the usual fashion. Anything to save us the $1000 each of her little indiscretions cost us!

Penguin is 10 years old now. Though I vowed she would never be uncrated if we were not home, the recent addition to our household of a 12 year old foster Clumber who does not tolerate crates well has caused me to re-think this. She's been trustworthy for a number of years and has been fine uncrated for the last couple of months. We were lulled into complacency, or perhaps our hyper-vigilance just became second nature. This is despite having young children. I have been very proud of Penguin with regard to Oliver's, and more recently Eleanor's, toys. Until two evenings ago, I had nearly forgotten her prior indiscretions. 

What happened to bring it all back to me? I came upstairs from our basement to find CD trying to get something out of Penguin's mouth. Penguin had plucked a sock, one that was no doubt already starting to fall off, from baby Eleanor's foot while the baby was sitting in her high chair. Penguin is very attentive to Eleanor when she is in the high chair, a human cheerio dispenser all for Pen. 

Since we saw the sock being swallowed, I reached for the salt. It worked like a charm and the sock was back in less than five minutes. Though the incident surprised me, what is most surprising is that after nearly three years of baby socks in the house, this is the first time Penguin has eaten one.

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