Intussusception: Beau's Story

by Robin Camken 

I nearly lost my Beaumont when he was only six months old to intussusception, caused by swallowing a foreign object.  Beaumont and Roxy liked to play tug-o-war with an old towel.  I thought it was cute seeing the big dog and the puppy playing happily together.  I didn't realize at the time that I was putting my puppy at risk by allowing him to play with this "toy".

When I came home from work the following day, Beaumont was looking uncomfortable.  He didn't want to eat or go for a walk; he began throwing up, and soon was not even able to keep water down.  I was very concerned and took him to the emergency clinic.  When we went in to see the Vet, he was waving his tail and looking quite happy (typical berner).  She palpated him, checked his gums, took his temperature (it was normal), and sent me home with Pepto Bismo because she thought he only had an upset stomach.  He couldn't keep water down, what was I suppose to do with Pepto Bismo?  I tried to give it to him, I ended up with pink stuff sprayed all over the wall.

First thing the next morning I took him to my own Vet.  Standard x-rays were taken, nothing showed up.  A blockage was finally diagnosed using a barium x-ray. Surgery was performed that afternoon.  Beaumont had swallowed part of the towel with which he had been playing. This strip of towel was shredded and as it moved from the stomach into the intestine, it cause the intestine to telescope back on itself (technical term: intussusception). This condition is like pulling a string to close a sac, the material around the string bunches up.  Because of the delay getting a correct diagnosis, the towel had begun to tear into the intestine, causing parts of it to begin to die. Beau lost a foot and a half of bowel as a result and was given 50% chance of recovering - mainly due to the high risk of infection. He was kept in hospital for three days after surgery on IV and anti-biotics. Fortunately, he recovered very quickly and never had any gastric problems following this ordeal.

Since my experience with Beaumont and the towel, I have heard of several cases where Bernese (ranging in age from 6 months-3 years) have needed surgery for intussusception caused by swallowing various articles....Socks seems to be a the most common.  I strongly advise against allowing a puppy to play with anything that is made from material that can be shredder or be swallowed whole.  Be especially careful to not let your berner have access to the laundry basket - as dirty clothes seem to be particularly attractive to these dogs.

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