Vets' race against time to save dog who ate fish hook on fishing trip with owner

A French bulldog was on the brink of death after swallowing a fish hook that embedded itself in his throat.

Eleven-month-old Buster was rushed to Vets Now in Winchester for emergency treatment before being referred to a specialist hospital.

His owner Steve Bregazzi admits he and wife Eileen prayed every day as they fretted over whether Buster would survive.

And when the phone call came to say he was well enough to go home, Steve, who was in a bank at the time, broke down in tears.

X-ray image of fish hook stuck in Buster's throat
The x-ray from Buster's operation, showing the fish hook stuck in his throat

Reliving the ordeal, Steve admitted his decision to take Buster on a fishing trip was “in hindsight, not the best idea I’ve had in my life”.

He said: “Things had been fine all day and Buster had really enjoyed himself and I was just saying to my friend that I couldn’t wait to take him fishing again.

“Then, in almost the same breath, I looked around and saw him with a fishing line hanging out of his mouth and I knew straight away he’d swallowed a hook.”

Steve added: “There’s a special tool fishermen use called a disgorger which takes out hooks you can’t see or are too deep in the fish’s mouth.

“I tried to retrieve it with that but Buster’s airways were so tight there was no way I could get it out. Buster was really distressed and even bit me on my finger and thumb which he’d never done before.

“I’m so relieved things have worked out because I couldn’t eradicate the image of him struggling to breathe from my mind. I feared he wasn’t going to make it and that would be the last time I’d see him.”

With the help of his friend, Steve carried Buster to his car and as he drove in search of help asked Siri on his hands-free mobile to find an emergency vet in Hampshire.

He was advised to visit Vets Now in Winchester which provides emergency care for pets out of hours. Through brilliant teamwork, staff there managed to sedate and stabilise Buster.

But with the hook so deeply embedded in his throat, they had to refer him to a specialist hospital for it to be removed.

Buster had an operation and was given a tracheotomy to help him breathe as his airways had become so swollen.

To complicate matters he also developed pneumonia – and had to be kept under observation for five days before he was allowed home.

Image of dog running in field, Buster almost died after swallowing a fish hook
Buster was on the brink of death after swallowing a fish hook

Steve said: “My wife and me said at least 10 prayers a night while he was in hospital and our prayers were answered. Buster is more like a son to me than a pet.”

Principal vet Aisling O’Loughlin, of Vets Now in Winchester, said she was delighted to hear Buster’s on the mend.

She explained: “Because Buster is a French bulldog, which is a short-nosed breed, it made access to the hook extremely difficult. It was embedded deeply in the tissue.

“Thankfully though, with some brilliant team work, we managed to stabilise him for referral and prevent the situation getting worse.”

Read our in-depth article on fish hook injuries

Image of buster smiling after removal of fish hook from his throat
Luckily, Buster was saved by his owner's quick reactions

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Aisling added: “Buster’s case highlights the dangers of fish hooks. Due to the barbs on these hooks, they can be difficult to remove without sedation, surgery, and pain medication.

“Considerable damage can also be caused if someone pulls on a fishing line after the hook has already become embedded in the animal, so we don’t recommend DIY attempts at removing fish hooks.

“Anglers should be ultra-careful when discarding fishing tackle and equipment.”

The Vets Now clinic in Winchester – where Buster received treatment – is one of 55 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are 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.

All of Vets Now’s premises have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.