Riley – the Curious Case of a Vomiting Labrador

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At four years of age, Riley developed intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea which got progressively worse over a six month period. As a typical Labrador, he would often scavenge waste bins, but his owners struggled to find food that suited him and he continued to be poorly with weight falling off him. Despite blood tests and X-rays at his local vets and treatment with antibiotics, nothing seemed to help. He was eventually referred to Northwest Surgeons – despite its name, we specialise in medicine too!

On examination Riley was bright and alert, although he was very unhappy about having his abdomen examined – he even showed signs of nausea by smacking his lips when this was done. I discussed the long programme of detective work ahead of us with his owners – which would include infections, food sensitivity, a range of diseases affecting his liver or pancreas, along with the possibility of Riley having swallowed a foreign body that had become stuck inside him. What we needed to do was establish exactly what was wrong so that informed decisions could be made about his care, so Riley was admitted for further tests.

The first panel of tests on Riley’s blood and faeces were normal, so we decided to carry out a non-invasive ultrasound scan. This showed thickening in some of the loops of his gut, together with enlarged lymph nodes near his bowel. This was our first important clue, as Labradors can often be affected by inflammatory bowel disease – usually characterised by repeated incidents of vomiting and diarrhoea.

To confirm our suspicions we needed to carry out biopsies of Riley’s bowel in order to effectively differentiate between this disease and lymphoma, which is a type of bowel cancer. Endoscopy allows us to take these small samples in a far less invasive manner, which is also much less risky for poorly dogs like Riley. Under a light anaesthetic we passed a fibre-optic tube through his mouth and stomach and all the way to his intestines where we would be able to take a small sample of his bowel to be sent to the laboratory for testing.

However we were all in for a bit of a surprise! We found two sports socks in his stomach, which were carefully removed using special retrieval forceps through the endoscope. Once these socks were removed, we were then able to pass the tube down to his intestine to get the necessary biopsies. Riley recovered well from his procedure, perhaps feeling a little emptier in his stomach!

A few days later the results were in – Riley did have inflammatory bowel disease, and was placed on a diet of turkey and potatoes, along with some antacid medication.

A month on, Riley’s vomiting and diarrhoea had stopped and he was gaining weight. His diet was altered to a low allergy regime where he wouldn’t need further medication and at six weeks he was a much happier dog. His owners also reported that they hadn’t lost any more items of clothing!

Riley was treated by Dr Rebecca M. Littler MA, VetMb, PhD, DSAM, MRCVS

Rebecca Littler

Rebecca Littler Rebecca qualified from Cambridge and followed her passion for small animal medicine by completing a PhD in canine gastroenterology and the RCVS Diploma in Small Animal Medicine. She has published and teaches regularly on many aspects of internal medicine with specific interest and expertise in gastroenterology. Rebecca joined NWVS in 2009 to lead in the development of internal medicine.Rebecca is an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Small Animal Medicine.At Northwest Veterinary Specialists our European and RCVS Recognised Specialists in internal medicine are supported by diplomate standards in anaesthesia, oncology, neurology, soft tissue surgery and cardiology. Our nurses are service-specific medicine nurses – all RCVS registered and many have  further qualifications. Our patients are cared for throughout the night by MRCVS veterinary interns and nurses. Staffing levels are increased in response to increased patient demands, so that care is never compromised. We have extensive on-site facilities and superb imaging capabilities, including ultrasonography, MRI, CT and fluoroscopy. The team’s endoscopy experience is extensive, having performed thousands of endoscopies.We hold twice daily ward rounds facilitating clinical case discussions between internal medicine, anaesthesia, neurology and oncology. Further case conferences are held for long-stay inpatients and critical patients to ensure a multi-disciplinary discussion of our more complex patients. It is not only our facilities, but our dedicated colleagues that allow us to offer the highest standards of internal medicine care 7 days a week.

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