When 17-month-old black Labrador Molly was impaled by a 1-metre-long stick, it could have been the end for her – but with prompt veterinary care, she has gone on to make a full recovery.
Molly was out with her owners and chasing a ball down a wooded hill when she ran into a tree branch, which went through her chest. After hearing her cries, her owners knew the situation was serious and rushed her to Scarsdale Vets’ Stapenhill practice without attempting to remove the stick themselves – a course of action that saved her life.
Veterinary Surgeon Jen Lees said, “I could feel the stick going half-way down Molly’s chest on the outside, but it then disappeared internally and I couldn’t feel the end, which was concerning. To find out how far in the stick was penetrating we sedated Molly to take x-rays.”
Jen added, “The x-ray showed that the stick had gone into her chest, through her diaphragm and into her abdomen, but as we couldn’t tell how much internal trauma there would be, it was safer to transfer her to our referral hospital Pride Veterinary Centre for specialist treatment.”
Jen and Veterinary Nurse Serena Cutbill took Molly to Pride Veterinary Centre where colleague Mark Longley was waiting along with the surgical team.
Mark said, “Amazingly, Molly was pretty stable on arrival and whilst her chest sounded fine and there were no worrying observations (other than the obvious), there was serious potential for there to be some life-threatening injuries if the stick wasn’t dealt with urgently, such as trauma to her lungs, liver and for the blood supply to her intestinal tract to be damaged.”
In an amazing stroke of luck, despite penetrating 40cm into Molly’s body, the stick had missed all of Molly’s major organs, blood vessels and arteries, and had travelled underneath her lungs and liver, pushing them out of the way instead of piercing either. The team immediately got to work to operate and remove it.
“The stick was covered in bark, dirt and Molly’s fur, so my main concern was the risk of infection,” Mark said. “The clean-up operation was key; once we had removed the larger bits of bark, dirt and hair with forceps, we had to repeatedly flush the area with sterile fluids to try and remove any smaller foreign bodies that were still present. The extra incision under her chest created another access point to help flush out any contaminates.”
After intensive care and a course of painkillers and antibiotics, Molly was able to return home five days after surgery. She returned regularly to have her dressing changed and the wound checked, and has since made a great recovery.
“Molly is an incredibly lucky dog and her recovery was nothing short of remarkable – the next day you’d think nothing had happened!” Mark added. “She is lucky to be alive – if the stick had moved just a few centimetres either way or hit any of her vital organs or major blood vessels, it’s unlikely she would have made it to Pride in the first place.
“Sadly, we see a lot of stick injuries, but these are usually in the mouth – I’ve never seen a case like this where a stick has penetrated both the dog’s chest and abdomen. Molly’s owners did exactly the right thing by not trying to pull the stick out and taking Molly to their nearest vets straight away.
“If something similar should happen to your dog, please leave the stick or object in place and take them to the nearest vet immediately.”