EDEN PAIRIE, Minn. – CT scanners, ultrasound machines and other sophisticated equipment developed for human hospitals are increasingly being used in veterinary care.
This week the staff at BluePearl Veterinary Partners used these high-tech devices, along with their own extensive training, to help save the life of a golden retriever named Cash.
Cash – a 9-year-old hunting dog named after Johnny Cash — just wasn’t himself recently. He was lagging behind his owner on walks and leaving food in his bowl. His belly hurt on the left side. Owner Aaron Johnson knew something was seriously wrong.
What was the problem? It remained a mystery, even to the highly trained veterinarians who examined him. But none of them were giving up. Instead they methodically worked to solve the puzzle.
Johnson began by taking Cash to VCA Chanhassen Animal Hospital, where the veterinarian performed an X-ray. It revealed no obvious problem and the office eventually recommended a trip to BluePearl for an abdominal ultrasound. As a referral hospital, BluePearl has the advanced equipment and experienced veterinarians necessary to solve complex medical problems.
At BluePearl on Saturday morning, Dr. Jenifer Myers noted that Cash was not vomiting or suffering diarrhea – signs that would have indicated he might have swallowed something that was interfering with his digestive system.
After performing the ultrasound on Monday morning, Myers could see Cash’s left kidney was enlarged and had fluid build-up. Those signs often point to some sort of kidney blockage, possibly a kidney stone or a tumor. But those things were not visible. “There wasn’t any obvious explanation,” Myers said.
After consulting with Johnson, the veterinarians proceeded with a CT scan, which provided a 3D image inside Cash’s belly, similar to how the machine is used on humans. Myers could get a better look at how the left side of Cash’s body was swelling, and how edema had built up in the tissues under the dog’s skin. And one more thing:
“We were able to visualize the stick.”
Some sort of small stick had gotten into Cash’s belly. Myers didn’t know it at the time, but the stick actually was a wooden skewer used in a caprese salad. It hadn’t shown up on the X-ray because it was wood.
The best explanation is that the skewer fell to the floor at a recent family gathering and Cash swallowed it. It punctured Cash’s intestine, blocked the left kidney and poked out of Cash’s chest wall (but not through his skin.)
Now the mystery was solved and it was time to fix the problem. On Monday afternoon, Dr. Jeff Yu, a board-certified veterinary surgeon with BluePearl, made an incision in Cash’s abdomen, removed the skewer and sutured up the hole left in Cash’s intestine. He removed fluids from between the chest wall and skin and left in a drain to continue the process.
Now, Johnson is looking forward to Cash’s healing after surgery. He said Cash loves to hunt but is just as happy to stay calmly beside him at home. “He is extremely well-behaved and very high energy. It’s a great combination.”
“We are fortunate to have these advanced tools and specialty doctors under one roof,” Myers said. As a result, she added, “Cash ultimately has a great prognosis for recovery.”