KATY, Texas – When veterinarians from a BluePearl-affiliated hospital viewed X-rays of a dog named Miss Balie this week, they thought they had finally discovered what was making the 9-pound shih tzu so sick.
The X-rays showed what looked like a metal ring inside the tiny dog’s stomach. But then on Tuesday, Dr. Jill Manion of North Houston Veterinary Specialists used a device called an endoscope to remove the object from Miss Balie’s stomach, and learned there was more to the mystery.
The ring-like object actually was a penny with a hole in the center. The hole was eaten away by acids in Miss Balie’s stomach. As the acids broke down the penny, it released zinc, which made Miss Balie severely anemic.
“The zinc was causing her body to destroy or break down her red blood cells,” said Dr. Jennifer Clegg, the veterinarian who first cared for Miss Balie after she was brought to the NHVS hospital in Katy. “She just got sicker and sicker.”
Miss Balie also had swallowed a small metal rectangular object and a crescent-shaped piece of plastic. In a larger dog, these items might simply have passed through her system, but Miss Balie is too small for that to have happened
For Miss Balie’s owner, LuAna Schramm, there’s an important lesson: Trust your instincts about your pet. She was initially told last week by a local veterinarian that Miss Balie’s blood was normal – but that’s probably because the zinc hadn’t entered her bloodstream yet.
She still knew Miss Balie was hurting and she was determined to find out why. “I saw pain in her eyes, without a shadow of a doubt,” she said. Miss Balie was not eating or drinking and wouldn’t get up to walk around.
At her family veterinarian’s suggestion, Schramm brought Miss Balie in for X-rays and testing on Monday at NHVS. The penny was removed from the dog’s stomach on Tuesday and she went home to Schramm on Wednesday.
Schramm hopes Miss Balie never has another episode like this. But she knows how she’ll respond if it does happen. “Next time I’m going to take her straight to the vet and say ‘X-ray her.’ ”