Dangers of barbecue season for dog

A cautionary tale...

Vets are sending a warning to pet owners ahead of barbecue season after a puppy nearly died after swallowing a kebab stick and having it inside her for two months! 

Amazingly, it narrowly avoided damaging 10-month-old Bear’s major organs and was only discovered when she started limping after it passed all the way through to her leg. She needed an urgent operation at Abington Park Veterinary Surgery in Northampton to carefully remove the four-inch-long stick.

Thankfully, German Shepherd, Bear, has made a full recovery. But while the length of time was exceptional, the team at Abington Park, part of My Family Vets network of UK clinics say they face a worrying number of such incidents. 

And, with a boom in post-lockdown barbecues expected as outdoor gathering restrictions ease and sunnier spring weather, they are appealing to owners to take extra care and seek urgent help if they suspect a stick has been swallowed. 

Owner Richard Davidson was aware of the dangers after the family’s other dog, Labrador Keats, needed surgery having gulped down a corn-on-the-cob on a stick from the kitchen a couple of years back. But they reckon hungry Bear must have snatched the stick unnoticed from a back garden barbie. 

“Dogs are so crafty when it comes to food and they are just so quick,” said Richard, who lives near Kettering. “Because we already have a dog that will eat anything, we always try to be as careful as possible. In this instance, we didn’t even see her take it and don’t know if she sneaked it off someone’s plate. So, we didn’t realise that there was any problem at all.Months later she started to limp and then that gradually got worse. It became so bad that she wouldn’t walk on her back leg and we took her to the vets.” 

Richard initially took Bear to their local vets, where an X-ray found no indication of a fracture but did suspect an obstruction. Realising she needed specialised attention, she was referred to the expertise of the specialists at Abington Park. 

“As soon as Bear came in and I did an ultrasound scan I could see the foreign body,” said vet Riccardo Minelli. “Although the leg was massively swollen, I had still been expecting something like a grass seed, not anything as big as the kebab stick. There was no wound or entry point, so it was hard to imagine how something like that had got in. The imaging showed that it was very close to large abdominal vessels and the femoral artery. I realised that surgery was required as there was a risk of haemorrhage if we tried to remove it non-invasively.” 

Dr Jamie McClement headed the specialist team who carried out the delicate operation to remove the kebab stick. Owner Richard was stunned at the news of the find, but delighted Bear came through the surgery well. 

We’ve created this handy infographic to help people understand the dangers barbecues pose to pets, while vet Riccardo warns that it is a very real danger for pet owners as they look to enjoy the outdoors again after tough coronavirus restrictions. 

“We frequently see swallowed kebab sticks,” said Riccardo. “It is normally stuck in the mouth, the oesophagus or the stomach. But if they do get to the intestine, the animal tends to be unwell quickly, which wasn’t what happened in this case which was very unusual. With more people at home at the moment and perhaps having barbecues, there is definitely an increased risk. We’d ask people to be especially vigilant if they have dogs around and to contact their vet right away if they see their pet get hold of one of these things.The sooner they get the animal to us the better as we can usually retrieve it without surgery.” 



Looking for a vet in Northampton? Abington vets are part of My Family Vets, providing exceptional care for pets and outstanding service for their owners.

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