Doberman Pinscher Stella has emergency stomach operation to recover half a kilo of tennis balls she had eaten

When Stella the Doberman suddenly fell ill her owners were perplexed as to what was wrong.Tennis

The mystery was only solved when the seven-year-old dog went under the knife and emergency vets found the chewed up remains of scores of tennis balls – and one that was completely whole.

Owner Colin Hutchinson had been worried about Stella not eating and feared she’d swallowed something poisonous.

He explained: “Stella went from being perfectly healthy to really floppy. She didn’t eat or drink for four days and was vomiting a lot.

“She seemed to pick up briefly over the weekend, but when she stopped eating again I could tell just looking at her that she was really unhappy.”

Image of Doberman who ate tennis balls for Vets Now article
Stella is lucky to be alive after her tennis balls ordeal

Retired policeman Colin took Stella to his daytime vet that Monday, but as the day wore on she became badly dehydrated.

In the evening, with her condition not improving, she was transferred to Vets Now in Gateshead, which provides care for pets out of hours.

“Our daytime vet asked if she’d eaten anything she shouldn’t have and I said ‘no’, obviously unaware of what had happened,” he added.

Vets Now emergency vet Jacqui Seymour carried out blood tests which revealed “multiple abnormalities” while a scan uncovered a major blockage in Stella’s stomach.

Image of tennis balls that were removed during Stella's surgery at Vets Now
Tennis balls removed from Stella's stomach

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Colin said: “The vet at Vets Now said she’d need to operate to find out for certain what the problem was and she was rushed into the surgery that night.

“She found a load of chewed up tennis balls and one completely whole tennis ball – how on earth Stella managed to swallow it I don’t know. Altogether, the balls weighed half a kilo which is ridiculous.

“But we were lucky the vet got to them when she did. If she hadn’t operated that night Stella’s intestine could have ruptured and we’d have lost her. I can’t praise Vets Now enough for what they have done for her.”

"We were lucky the vet got to the tennis balls when she did. If she hadn't operated that night Stella's intestine could have ruptured and we'd have lost her."

Colin Hutchinson Stella's owner

Colin, his wife Adele, and their three children, aged nine, 10 and 11, had to nurse Stella when she eventually returned home. They coaxed her to eat and fed her by hand until she recovered from her ordeal.

The family are delighted to have their beloved pet back to full health, but Colin is still baffled as to where the tennis balls came from.

He said: “Stella loves chasing balls and I use a ball launcher when I’m out with her, but I’ve never lost one and the second she pops one I throw it in the bin.

“The only thing I can think is she might have found them in the field when we’ve been out at night.”

Vet Jacqui, who operated on Stella, said: “It’s lucky we managed to get to the bottom of Stella’s secret tennis ball habit when we did.

“The balls had caused quite a bit of internal damage and the surgery was not straightforward.

“Thankfully though, she was much brighter in the morning after her operation and it’s great to hear she’s now back to full health.”

Jacqui added: “Some dogs will eat literally anything and I have removed a lot of strange ‘foreign bodies’ over the years. But this was a record number of tennis balls.”

The Vets Now clinic in Gateshead – where Stella received treatment – was recently rated as “outstanding” in the delivery of emergency and critical care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It’s 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.