AS I HAVE said many times before, we know dogs (and cats) love to eat all sorts of different foods and items lying around.

Unfortunately, discarded face masks are causing a lot of problems just now, with vets having to operate on dogs to remove them, after becoming lodged in their intestines.

We have yet to see this at Dunedin Vets, but I know many vets who have.

Some breeds of dog are very food-orientated and eat anything. We all know an insatiable Labrador (my Lucy will eat anything; I’ve had to move her away from discarded face masks on many an occasion).

Labradors will devour everything they can get hold of. Some breeds are more picky and highly unlikely to eat anything other than a tasty morsel.

There are some toy breed owners who would love their pet to eat a hearty meal every now and then.

This is something to consider when buying a pup.

Dogs come in a huge variety of breeds, behaviours, shapes and sizes, so choosing a dog to fit your lifestyle can be extremely difficult. It is best to do lots of research before contemplating buying a dog.

Many dogs have natural instincts such as herding and guarding, and these should be considered prior to choosing a dog.

There are seven main classes of dog, each with their own characteristics. These are only guidelines and all dogs have their own characteristics.

Border collies are generally very agile and not especially food-orientated – but recently, our receptionist Adele took an interesting call at our Dunedin Vets Tranent surgery, from Mrs Jane Green.

She had been playing on the beach at North Berwick with her dog Zed, an exuberant 11-month-old Border collie. They had been having great fun on a dry, sunny morning when suddenly the ball she threw for Zed disappeared.

Mrs Green was convinced Zed had swallowed it whole. There appeared to be no other explanation for the disappearing ball.

Zeds x-ray

Zed's x-ray

Adele advised her to come to the surgery as soon as possible after ascertaining that Zed wasn’t choking.

I have seen cases where hard balls have become lodged in dogs’ throats, cutting off the air supply and literally choking the dog. Always make sure the ball your dog is playing with is large enough not to lodge in their airway.

Zed wasn’t choking and seemed remarkably bright.

When he arrived at the surgery, Zed was examined by vet Rachel.

She discussed the case with Mrs Green. Rachel could not feel the ball when she felt Zac’s abdomen, but Mrs Green was sure he had swallowed it and she showed Rachel a similar one, which was certainly too large to pass through his intestines.

At this point, as vets we have to decide how to determine if Zed had indeed swallowed a ball, so we look to diagnostic imaging. The first thing we may consider is radiography.

Only a few years ago, if vets wanted to visualise the internal structures of your pet’s body, a radiograph would be taken using an x-ray machine, which showed the image on a piece of photographic-type paper.

The radiograph had to be processed manually in a dark room, using noxious chemicals, and it could take about 15 minutes to develop one plate.

If several radiographs were required, the pet would be under anaesthetic for a prolonged period of time. Pets require sedation or general anaesthetic for radiographs to be taken.

The patient has to be positioned correctly and be perfectly still whilst the radiograph is taken. This ensures the best image possible is produced at the first attempt and ensures minimal radiation exposure.

Nowadays, we have digital x-rays. The patient still has to be perfectly still whilst the radiograph is taken but the processing is complete in under one minute.

The images appear on a computer screen and can be viewed from different angles and intensities as required. Fewer radiographs need to be taken and patients are anaesthetised for much shorter times.

After light sedation, Zed lay still to have his x-ray taken. This confirmed the ball was in his stomach, with the dense squeaker clearly visible.



After discussion with Mrs Green, Zed went for surgery. Vet Rachel, with nurse Jenny, the anaesthetist, performed an exploratory operation to locate and remove the ball.

With careful surgical skill, Rachel removed the ball from Zed’s stomach and checked to ensure there were no other foreign objects or damage to Zed’s intestinal tract.

It would not be the first time that one object has been removed, only to find something else in the intestines as well!

She closed the wound and Jenny monitored Zed as he recovered. He was given intravenous fluid, pain relief and antibiotics to ensure good recovery and stop infection after his operation.

Once he was awake and stable, he was transferred to our out-of-hours carers at the Braids Veterinary Hospital, where he was monitored constantly until he was allowed home the following day.

Zed has been examined by several vets at Dunedin Vets since his return home and, although at first quite tender and not his normal happy self, he is improving and should be back to his lively, bouncy self pretty soon.

Please ensure you do not give your pets items to play with that they could swallow. They are not aware of the consequences if they do and they may not all be as lucky as Zed.