Border collie Beth, like most of her breed, loves playing fetch! Ideally with a ball but if that’s not an option then a stick will do. One November morning Beth was out for her walk enjoying a good game of fetch with a particularly sturdy stick when disaster struck. Running enthusiastically towards it she misjudged her distance and ran straight onto the stick, getting it stuck in the back of her mouth. Understandably worried, her owner removed the stick but the end was bloody and clearly damage had been done.
Beth was rushed into the vets where she was seen by vet John. Recognising the seriousness of the situation Beth was admitted to the hospital and prepared for an anaesthetic. Once asleep a CT scan was taken of Beth’s head and neck. The scan clearly demonstrated an injury to the back of the mouth and neck with air extending down the neck between the muscles. There were also flecks of what could only be bark or splinters deep in the wound. The CT images below demonstrate the extent of the wound.
Armed with this vital information vet John decided to use endoscopy to further examine and flush the debris out of the wound. Using a flexible endoscope, John was able to get a better look at the back of the mouth and assess the damage. Beth was incredibly lucky! The stick only just missed vital structures in the neck such as the oesophagus, vessels and nerves, a few millimetres in the wrong direction and the injury could have been much more serious or even fatal!
Despite such a near miss the wound still went deep into the tissues of the neck and was going to prove a real challenge to clean. John switched to a rigid scope in an attempt to flush away bits of bark and splinters which would undoubtedly cause a nasty infection if left behind. Unfortunately, due to the depth and position of the wound it was impossible to ensure that all the debris had been removed using the scope and Beth was moved to theatre and prepared for surgery.
In theatre, vet John was able to dissect down between the muscles to reach the tract formed by the stick. Once indentified, several fragments of bark deep in the wound were retrieved and a drain placed to prevent the build up of fluid. The wound was closed and Beth recovered in hospital overnight before going home with her very relieved owner the next day. After almost two weeks on antibiotics and pain relief the drain was removed and Beth’s wound continued to heal well. We are pleased to say that she is now back to her normal self but won’t be chasing anymore sticks in future!
Stick injuries are incredibly nasty but easy to prevent. Frisbees, balls and toys are all good alternatives to sticks and could prevent a serious wound. Beth’s owner wanted us to share her case in the hope that it might stop another dog getting a similar injury. So next time you go for a walk remember to take a ball!