Dog Eats Staples: A Case for Integrated Veterinary Medicine

Frequently, while I’m watching television, there are so many pills advertised, it seems like conventional medicine has a pill for everything. They also have a long list of side effects included in most of the advertisements. Sometimes the best approach is to combine conventional medicine with some of the ancient wisdom. Here’s a recent example:

Case presented: Last week I examined Maggie, a 9 year old Keeshond that had vomited seven to nine times during the day. Radiographs revealed staples in the stomach. Blood work was ordered to see if there were major internal problems. The outcome of the case was uncertain at the time of the examination. Maggie was obviously very dehydrated and the X-rays showed Grade 4 to 5 hip dysplasia. Though she could hold down no food or water, she was in good spirits. Maggie was presented near the end of the day, so referral to an emergency facility would be a likely option. That was discussed, but the owners chose to decline that option. (Frequently people decline the emergency facility option for perceived cost issues.)

Conventional Options: Surgery or endoscopic surgery might have been recommended as treatment options. I was hoping we could facilitate a good outcome for Maggie with a less invasive, less dangerous treatment regimen. One of the limitations of modern drug therapy for a case like Maggie’s is that the conventional drugs that reduce vomiting would be likely to mask a serious foreign body or other intestinal problems that might require surgery.

My integrated medicine treatment plan: Maggie was given a combination Chinese herbal formula for vomiting and diarrhea, after starting intravenous re-hydration. Uncommon to conventional medicine thinking is the oral administration of medicine for a vomiting patient. I have done this many times, and it works very well. In fact, the integration of this particular medicine aids in the diagnosis. I have found that if an animal vomits in spite of this oral medication, it usually has a more serious problem requiring a more invasive level of treatment. I usually try a full G.I. barium series next if that seems appropriate, to outline and clean the intestinal tract. In Maggie’s case, the Chinese herb, along with enzymes helped digest the contents of the intestinal tract, and moved the metal, working like a charm. No more vomiting, no diarrhea, and a bright and alert patient benefiting from re-hydration.

New radiographs 14 hours later revealed that the staples had moved from the stomach into the intestines. The colon was filled and enlarged with a large amount of ingesta. The Chinese herbs were repeated at four-hour intervals along with enzymes. Five cotton balls were soaked with laxative and administered orally to catch and entrap the staples. An enema was administered to clean out the colon. Shortly after the enema, foreign material including papers with the staples passed out of Maggie.

The integration of conventional diagnostics and medicine with alternative therapies: The use of the Chinese herbal mixture and an enema allowed us to gently help Maggie, while the conventional methods we used (X-rays and blood analysis) enabled us to do a comprehensive evaluation of the problem. Without the herbs moving the material through the intestine and being eliminated, Maggie’s problem would have remained uncertain, and she might have been sent to surgery.

Now I am thinking…The Chinese have something for everything…if I could only read Chinese!