Petplan pet insurance presents: The mystery of the missing leash

Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Jul 11 2012

As I entered the exam room, Annie sat politely at her owners’ feet, her face the picture of innocence. Her tail tapped the floor in a polite greeting.

“Dr. Mantione, we are 100% sure that Annie ate four feet of her leash last night. We came home from our walk and let her in the house dragging her leash ahead of her. She was out of our sight for about 3-4 minutes and when we went into the family room to unhook her all we found was this on her collar.” Annie’s mom held up a leash clip with about 3 inches of blue nylon still attached to it. “We searched everywhere – but no leash. It has to be in her stomach.”

I looked at Annie doubtfully. She was about 8 months old and 50 pounds of soulful-eyed Yellow Lab. She looked perfectly content for a dog who had recently allegedly ingested four feet of heavy duty nylon. I examined her carefully, but other than some well-placed sloppy puppy kisses on my face, her exam was completely normal. She had no abdominal discomfort and no signs of shock, just a happy, healthy puppy.
“Are you sure you looked everywhere?” I asked, not quite believing that Annie could look so normal after such a snack. Her owners nodded emphatically, “Oh yes, positive – It was there one minute, gone the next.”

When faced with a dog with a known foreign body ingestion, I immediately begin to worry about an obstruction. Four feet of leash could certainly cause a great deal of trouble in a dog’s gastrointestinal tract, and I was worried that Annie would end up on our surgical table.
X-rays of Annie’s abdomen showed that she had a full stomach, but incredibly, her owners informed me that she had eaten her breakfast with her normal gusto. I have to admit that I still had a little bit of doubt that she could have eaten her leash and still feel so good.

We discussed options. Refer Annie to a hospital for an endoscopy, where a tool is passed through the esophagus to the stomach and has a little camera on the end that allows the operator to look directly into the stomach. We could also opt to take her into surgery right away, or wait and see what would happen, taking action if and when she became symptomatic for an obstruction. Because she was so bright, comfortable and stable, Annie’s owners decided to wait to see if she would vomit the leash back up.

They left my office with dire warnings of what to watch for and instructions to return at any hint of distress. I called them frequently the first week, but when Annie continued to be normal I began to suspect that something else had happened to the leash.

A month later, I was called out to the front office to see Annie and her owners standing in the waiting room. I swear all three of them were grinning from ear to ear. They handed me a bag, “Look inside, Dr. Mantione!” I peeked inside the bag to see a nearly intact four-foot blue leash, minus the clip on the end. “Where did you find it?!” I exclaimed.
“Annie threw it up this morning – we knew she had eaten it!!” Her owners told me that she had been normal all month until that morning, when she woke up and promptly vomited up her leash before eating breakfast. I patted her on the head. “Good dog, you silly girl!” Mystery solved!