My Dog, My Pin-Cushion and My Visit to the Emergency Vet

I put off writing this article for a long because I feared that people would judge me as a bad pet parent. I finally decided to write it when I heard countless other “my dog ate” stories and came to terms with the fact that accidents do happen.

“You think your dog ate what?” Those are the words I heard from my vet over the phone when I was trying to explain I thought my shepherd mix Gatsby may have eaten some pins from a pin cushion.

Let’s back up to the beginning. I got home from work around 6 and started on dinner. Something shiny on the kitchen floor caught my eye. It was a pin. I didn’t think much of it at first, thinking it may have fallen off of some clothing I had recently purchased. Fast forward a few hours. We were returning from our evening walk when I spotted a toy I didn’t recognize in Gatsby’s crate. I picked it up and my heart stopped. It was the pin cushion from the sewing box.

To be honest, my first reaction was “There’s no way he ate any, they appear to all still be on the cushion.” Despite my denial I checked his mouth and peered down hisGatsby’s pre-surgery x-ray throat. No blood, no needles, nothing abnormal. He was also acting normally. I suddenly remembered the pin in the kitchen and started searching for more pins. Immediately I knew that there was going to be a problem. I was finding pins left and right. Some were broken and some were bent. Even thought my denial still persisted (who eats pins, right?) I called my vet. She instructed me to go to the emergency pet hospital for x-rays.

At this point I was still calm, steadfastly denying to myself that either of the dogs had actually eaten any of the pins, but better safe than sorry. They took the dogs back for x-rays and then the vet came to speak with me. She gave me the good news first: Barret was free and clear, no pins in his belly. On the other hand, Gatsby had eaten enough pins for the both of them. From there almost everything else is a blur. The x-ray image was frightening. A cluster of what I later learned to be 11 pins were sitting in his stomach. One had already made its way toward the intestines.

Because of the sheer number of pins he had ingested surgery was his best option. If we took the “wait and see what passes” approach the damage could have been irreversible. I was told when a dog has ingests pins, and it is less than 3, they will generally pass without an issue with monitoring. I was astounded to learn that this wasn’t the first pin-extraction my vet had performed! I would do anything for my “kids” so I signed the papers, sent him into surgery and went home to wait.

Gatbsy’s x-rays post op It was about 2 AM when the vet called to let me know he was out of surgery and waking up. They were only able to find and remove 9 pins despite multiple x-rays taken during surgery.  I was to pick him up from the hospital and take him to my regular vet in the morning. He was released later in the day with strict dietary restrictions, medications, and instructions. I was also charged with the unpleasant task of dissecting any bowel movements to be sure the last 2 pins made it out safely.

The next few days we were still really worried about him. He had no interest in food and wasn’t going to the bathroom. After about a week I finally was able to find a food (scrambled eggs) that he would eat. We breathed a sigh of relief when we found the last pin in his stool a few days later. Despite the fact that he was still vomiting and was losing weight, the vet assured me that he would get back to normal soon, having endured a pretty invasive surgery it would just take time.  After a few vet office visits and several different medications he was on the mend.

Gatsby in a cone The experience has taught me a few lessons, mainly that some dogs really can (and will) eat anything if given the opportunity. I was always very careful about leaving things out or leaving doors open before, but (lesson #2) dogs can be very sneaky. Finally, I learned that both my dogs are integral parts of my life and that when it comes down to the wire I would do anything to make their lives long, healthy, and happy.

So ends my tale of the canine pin cushion. If you have one, please feel free to share your own “my dog ate” story in our comments section.

How to Litter Train Your Rabbit

Hello, Doug here. One of the best parts of having a rabbit as a pet is letting it hop around the house with you. However, letting your pet roam comes with the extra chore of cleaning up the trails of droppings that have been so nicely left for you if your pet isn’t taught better.  It isn’t too hard to teach your pet to go in a designated space, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to litter train you bunny. I will go over some standard techniques as well as other practices that have worked for me in the past with my pets. Read More »

A Naturalist-Priest, Yellow Rats and Bacterial Research – The Contorted Story of the Gerbil’s (Meriones unguiculatus) Arrival in the Pet Trade

In 1862, a French missionary named Armand David was commissioned to China, ostensibly as a school teacher.  However, the young priest had been deeply interested in nature since childhood and, as naturalists are want to do when finding themselves in exotic (or familiar!) locales, he began to collect all that walked, swam, flew or grew within reach. 

A Missionary’s “Alternative” Calling

The specimens he sent back to France intrigued the director of the Natural History Museum in Paris, and funding allowing Father David to continue his collecting was soon arranged.  From 1866 to 1874 he explored largely unstudied regions in northern and western China, and was eventually responsible for bringing hundreds of previously un-described species of animals and plants to the attention of European biologists. Read More »

A Drink to Your Pets’ Health – The Importance of Water in Your Pets’ Diet

Water is essential to your pets' health It’s no secret that your pets need fresh clean drinking water every day for optimum health. It’s also no secret that cats and some dogs are very finicky about, well, pretty much everything! With the warmer weather approaching I want to talk about your pet’s drinking habits.

Water is an essential ingredient to life. All animals need it to help flush out toxins and to keep organs hydrated. Cats especially need to take in an adequate amount of water to prevent kidney problems, most notably kidney stones and kidney failure.

The amount of water that your pet needs to drink daily depends on his or her weight, activity level, and diet. Dogs are generally pretty good about regulating their water intake. As long as fresh, clean water is provided they will usually drink the amount their body requires. Keep in mind that with the warmer temperatures around the corner, your dog should also be drinking more to stay fully hydrated.

Cats get most of their water intake from their food. In the wild this is not much of an issue since raw meat contains up to 70% water. Dry food, on the other hand, only contains about 10% moisture. Some cats will supplement their food with extra drinking water and others are a little pickier.

Zen Fountain by PetSafeIf you are having trouble getting your cat interested in water there are a few things you can try.  Change the type of pet bowl or the location of the bowl. Some cats prefer ceramic (lead-free glazed, of course) over metal bowls and vice versa. Other cats may be picky about the location of their water dish. Be sure it is far from the litter box and out of direct sunlight. You might also try a pet fountain. Clean, fresh, running water might be more interesting for your cat, while others will appreciate the water being filtered (thus tastier) and kept cooler. Finally, consider adding a wet food to your cat’s diet, or add water to your cats’ dry food. Wet cat foods usually contain around 80% water. Just be sure to adjust your portions of dry food to ensure you aren’t over feeding your cat.

Any sudden change in behavior can be cause for concern. Contact your vet if your pets’ drinking habits change suddenly; if they starting drinking an excessive amount of water, or stop drinking it altogether it could be a sign of a serious illness.

The Adventures of the Sometimes-Not-So-Great Gatsby – Part 3 –Product Testing

Gatsby playing with his toysWhen we left off last time I had a certified trainer come to my house and suggest some new behavior training to curb his destructive tendencies. Some of her suggestions seemed to help and others didn’t. This time I’d like to share a few products with you that I’ve found to be helpful.

Bitter Apple Spray – I used Bitter Apple Spray to deter the dogs from chewing on my furniture and the corners of my walls. It worked the way it was supposed to; they didn’t chew where I sprayed the furniture. Unfortunately they decided to chew elsewhere, where I didn’t spray Bitter Apple. If you are having a specific problem, say with chewing on table legs, I would recommend this product. If your problem is more severe, like mine was, you may want to buy it by the case!

Chamomile infused treats– There are several varieties of these calming treats on the market now. I noticed a difference in the boys about an hour after I gave them their treats. They’d calm down quickly after guests arrived, they would be calmer (and less destructive) during the day. Unfortunately the treats seemed to have less of an effect after daily use for a few weeks. I would save these for special occasions, such as when you are having guests over or know a stressful event is on the horizon.

Kongs – I started out using empty marrow bones as makeshift Kongs. I finally bought a couple of the real things and believe it or not, they seemed to make a world of difference. The food is harder to get out which keeps them occupied longer and they seem to really enjoy chewing on the rubber texture. To this day each dog gets his Kong with a special treat inside when I leave for work. They even seem to look forward to me leaving so that they can have it!

Homeopathic Anxiety Drops – I read some good reviews about these homeopathic drops helping other pet parent’s curb destructive behaviors and separation anxiety. So far the effects have all been positive.

Relaxation CDs for Dogs – Classical music specifically designed for dogs that calms them and reduces anxiety. It seems to work because it plays a limited number of musical notes in a minute which slows the dog’s heart rate and helps them relax. It also seems to work on humans! One of our local animal shelters uses this music to calm the dogs in the shelter at night. I highly recommend this music. It has been very effective in calming Gatsby’s anxiety while we are away.

It’s been a long road through puppyhood and what I suspect to be a mild case of separation anxiety. It’s a lot of work, but what wouldn’t we do for our fur-kids? I’m still hopeful that they will calm down even more as they enter adulthood, and that I won’t have to rely on so many commercial products in the future, but in the meantime they’ve been a lifesaver!

Losing a Four-legged Friend – R.I.P. Mr.Bojangles

It happens too often, and too soon that we have to say good-bye to a pet. It’s a sad fact of life for pet owners that our companions have much shorter life spans than we do, and despite caring for them the best that we can and loving them like family, their time with us is never long enough.

A Sad Day

It is a sad day at That Fish place That Pet Place as we had to say good bye to one of our favorite store pets and certainly a favorite of our customers, the Flemish Giant Rabbit, Mr. Bojangles.  Mr. Bojangles came to be with us in 2004, as a surrendered pet. His family could no longer care for him, but his kind and inquisitive personality earned him a place in the TFP family as the posterchild for how great pet rabbits can be. He spent his days roaming the small animal room, greeting quests, making friends and relaxing with his favorite employees. Read More »

Who Says You Can’t Train a Cat? – Training Your Cat to Come on When you Call

We all know that cats usually tend to do their own thing. Most don’t have any interest in doing anything they don’t feel like doing on their own terms, while some may be enticed with catnip or a dangling string. Depending on the temperament of your cat, you may be able to train him or her. You probably won’t be able to train her to roll over, shake, or to leave your tuna alone (that takes some special training talent), but teaching a cat to come when called can be vital in emergency situations. Read More »

It’s Spring…Here Come the “Orphaned” Wild Animal Babies!

Frank and Wallaby
Once you acquire the reputation of being a skilled pet-keeper (or of having a soft heart!), springtime may bring with it requests from well-meaning folks that you care for “abandoned” animal babies they have found.  In my long experience as a wildlife rehabilitator I have raised Flying Squirrels, Opossums, Raccoons, Muskrats and many other furry friends (the oddest being a Star-Nosed Mole!) – very rewarding work, but not to be taken on lightly. Read More »

Small Pets for Your Children – Choosing His or Her First Pet- Part 1

Just about every child will want to have a pet of their own at some point as they grow up, whether it’s because a friend wins a new goldfish at the fair, or a movie featuring talking guinea pigs comes to theaters. It’s important to consider, before buying your child a pet, that caring for a living thing is a big job, no matter how small the animal may be. All pets can feel pain, loneliness, boredom, and fear and will suffer if not cared for properly. It is a good idea to research the pet your child is interested in to make sure it is right for them before bringing a the new pet home. There are several popular first time pets that parents visiting us inquire about most often.  I thought it might be helpful to provide an introduction and a brief overview of what to expect from these animals, beginning with hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and rats. Read More »

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