The Tasty, and Dangerous, Fishy Morsel

Are you ready? I know I’m ready! 

The season is here. The mercury is rising, the days are longer and it’s time. It’s time to relish in the Summer sunshine and I hear our stunning West Coast is due for a cracker!

Many of our favourite sports and activities rest in an awkward hibernation during Winter, only to have the dust blown off them at the first peek of Summer. The water skis come out, the mountain bikes get a service, the fishing rods come off the rack and walking shoes come out of the wardrobe. The streets come alive with runners, bikers and dog walkers from early morning to late at night as the sun and warmth tugs at our natural instinct … to get out and enjoy the longer, warmer days while we can. Fishermen and fisherwomen will take advantage of a late afternoon/evening fish, and share the beach with walkers, strollers, runners and dogs. Which brings me to tell you about an after hours patient who visited the Hokitika clinic last Wednesday night. 

Raven, a 10 month old American Staffordshire Terrier, was having a great time, running and sniffing along the beach in the late afternoon sunshine with her family, when she discovered a delicious piece of discarded bait, still attached to an enormous hook and leader. The phone call came to our on-call vet Minnie just after 8pm. The owner was extremely vigilant and with quick-thinking used a clamp to attach the other end of the fishing line to Raven’s collar. With another emergency in the clinic, Minnie and TJ (our on-call vet nurse) triaged Raven to jump the queue. 

Was the hook still in her mouth? Was it stuck in her oesophagus? Or had it made its way to her stomach? Was the bait still on the hook? Had the hook damaged anything on the way down? These were the first questions we had to find the answers to before we could even begin to establish whether we could remove it or not. After Raven’s initial physical examination, we took an X-ray to try and locate the whereabouts of the dreaded fish hook. 

Raven went into surgery that night with Minnie and TJ, and the fish hook was successfully removed, with bait still attached, from Raven’s stomach. By 11.45pm, Raven was in recovery. A week later, she is doing amazingly well. She is one very lucky puppy. If her human family hadn’t seen her eat it, or if the hook didn’t have any fishing line attached, her beach food scavenging may have gone unnoticed, which would have had dire consequences. 

Swallowing a fish hook can cause irreparable damage and even death. 

So, a note to all pets owners who walk along the beach, keep your eyes peeled for any evidence of this much loved and super popular Summer activity. And, to all of you who enjoy a spot of fishing on the beach, or river, please be super vigilant and keep your gear close by and packed away in your tackle boxes. Our fellow canines don’t know whether a life threatening hook may be inside a delicious fishy morsel they want to devour. They are only out and about trying to enjoy the Summer days, just like us. 

On a side note, when we think about dogs and hooks - most often we think about hookworms, nasty parasites that set up residence in their stomachs. So remember to keep your pups on their worming programme, to keep them at their happiest!