Late one night we had a call from a distraught Vet from another local practice. They were faced with a 10 month old Labrador pup that had broken out of his Pukehina Beach home and in the 10 minutes he was on the run, he managed to gobble a tasty morsel……… containing a fish hook!

A fish hook caught in the oesophagus can set up a deadly infection through the chest cavity and the longer it is left in place the greater the infection and the greater the risk to the patient. Another complication can be the tissue around the lodged hook can become necrotic and die away. This often happens with bone fragments lodged in the oesophagus and would need to be surgically repaired with greater risks to the patient.

The local GP Vets needed VetCare’s assistance as we are the only clinic in the greater Bay of Plenty with the expertise to use an endoscope – a fibre optic camera, perfect for emergencies such as this. With an endoscope foreign objects (including fish hooks) may be removed from the oesophagus without surgery. The only other option is a surgery called a thoracotomy (entering the chest cavity to access the oesophagus to remove the hook). A thoracotomy is not only a time consuming expensive surgery requiring highly skilled surgeons but it increases the risk to the patient.

The worried clients and a guilty, fishy smelling Chocolate Labrador puppy were referred to our Bethlehem hospital  where we rallied our team lead by Dr Campbell Johnston. Two hours later, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, with a 10/10 degree of difficulty, the hook was retrieved! Not only had it passed into the oesophagus, but it had passed through the oesophageal sphincter into the stomach! Dr Campbell was able to unhook it from inside the stomach and guide it all the way back through the oesophagus and out the mouth without doing any further harm to the delicate tissue…..all with an endoscope, a series of stomach tubes and specially designed grabbers. It looked like a complex set of ropes and pulleys to me! The sheepish puppy made a full recovery and was sent home to Pukehina Beach two days later…..

….and two days after the pup was discharged, Dr Campbell received a special delivery of crayfish and a promise from one greedy pup to check his food for fish hooks in the future!