Dog who eats stones needs life-saving emergency surgery

MEET Hector – the cheeky little dog who just can’t stop eating stones.

Mischievous Hector, who is three-quarters basset and one-quarter springer, has developed an inexplicable obsession with ornamental pebbles in owner Claire Houghton’s garden.

Last summer, Claire discovered that Hector was eating the pebbles which are close to her back door. But she thought she’d solved the problem by covering the stones with plastic matting.

Cunning Hector, though, had other plans. He found a way of tunnelling under the plastic when Claire’s back was momentarily turned – to feast again on his favourite snack.

And it resulted in a full-on medical emergency when one pebble got lodged in his intestine, and another got lodged in his stomach.

The stones were caught on a crystal clear x-ray picture taken at Vets Now in Chippenham, where Claire turned for help after Hector became very poorly last month.

The pet emergency clinic, which opened in March and operates out of the Hale veterinary hospital on Langley Road, is the only one in the area which is staffed 24/7 by a full-time vet and vet nurse.

Vets now article about stone eating dog Hector and his brother Bertie enjoying the outdoors
Hector and his brother Bertie enjoying the outdoors

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On the morning of the emergency, Hector was vomiting, then he refused food and water and the chance to go for a walk – so Claire knew something was badly wrong.

Mother-of-three Claire said: “Hector is a bouncy basset. He’s a bit of a show off.

“We’ve got these ornamental pebbles in our back garden. Why Hector is so interested in them is beyond me. There’s lots of things you can imagine a dog wanting to eat. But stones?

“Anyway, we thought that covering the stones had solved the problem and whenever he is out in the garden I watch him really carefully.

“But when I’ve turned away he’s obviously thought, ‘Right, I’ll show her.’

“And he’s managed to get under the plastic. I think he was definitely trying to show off – to me and to his brother Bertie.

“Bertie is from the same litter – but he’s got no interest at all in eating stones, thankfully.”

Emergency vets at Vets Now carried out a series of tests on Hector before the x-rays showed up the stones. They then carried out surgery to remove them – and now they take pride of place in Claire’s kitchen.

Claire, from Corsham, Wiltshire, added: “The vet very kindly gave me the stones back in a little plastic bag – so we took them home with us!

“When Hector got home he was a bit downcast and he’d obviously been missing Bertie really badly.

“But he was back to his normal self fairly quickly.

“It’s just these particular stones that Hector is interested in – we’ve got other stones in the garden and he’s not remotely interested in them.

“So now, to be on the safe side, Hector wears a muzzle when he’s in the garden – just so we can be sure he’s not eating anything.”

X-ray of stones in dog's stomach for Vets Now article
X-ray showing the pebbles in Hector's stomach

Would you know what to do if your dog swallowed a 'foreign object'?

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Elizabeth Sharples, principal vet at Vets Now in Chippenham, said Hector, who is a patient of Hale vets, was admitted to the clinic on a Sunday evening.

She said: “We have a very close working relationship with Hale and Hector’s case shows the value of that.

“When he was admitted he was showing signs of shock as his heart rate was faster than it should have been with poor pulses and he was very quiet and subdued.

“We immediately gave him some pain relief, placed him on a drip to help correct the cardiovascular signs of shock, took some blood samples to assess him further and took an x-ray.

“His heart rate dropped and he became brighter but the x-rays showed two large stones – one in his stomach and the other in the small intestine. Both were too large to pass through and were causing a blockage.

“It was clear he was in a bad way so, after discussing his condition with his owner, we took the decision to surgically remove them.

“Thankfully, the operation was a success and Hector suffered no major complications.

“By the following morning, he was much brighter and walking as normal. Hector remained with us for a couple of days and daytime care was provided by our colleagues at the Hale.

“We work very closely with daytime practices to ensure an excellent continuity of care for our patients.”

"We have a very close working relationship with Hale Veterinary Group and Hector's case shows the value of that."

Elizabeth Sharples Principal Vet, Vets Now

Asked about Hector’s odd habit for eating stones, Elizabeth said: “Unfortunately, Hector’s predilection for eating stones is not that unusual.

“Some dogs will eat literally anything and, as Hector’s case shows, this can be very dangerous.

“Owners who have a dog who eats stones or other ‘foreign objects’ should keep a close eye on their pet’s behaviour and health.

“It’s worth bearing in mind that eating stones may be a sign of an underlying health problem.

“If you suspect your dog has eaten stones – or if your dog regularly eats ‘foreign objects’ – you should seek urgent veterinary advice.”

Vets Now is open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur.