The Case of the Pet Who Swallowed a Golf Ball

Sometimes, our pets eat things they shouldn’t, even when we think we’ve done everything possible to “pet proof” their environment. Strings, toys, bottle caps, and all manner of other items can be fair game for inquisitive pets; and if a pet cannot pass the ingested object on their own, medical removal will be necessary.

Recently, a wonderful and curious young canine patient decided to play with, and then swallow, a golf ball. He was presented to Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Center (AAVEC). This is type of case is not uncommon, as dogs often swallow balls and other foreign objects. These can often require surgical removal as the ball will often become lodged in the pylorus (the opening between the stomach and small intestine), leading to obstruction. Furthermore, sometimes the ball, or pieces, can become stuck in the esophagus.

In this case, attempts to induce vomiting did not help the pup expel the ball. As an alternative to surgical removal, video-endoscopy can be used for foreign body retrievals. The equipment is advanced and similar to the equipment used in human hospitals. Before this particular pet’s procedure, they were fasted overnight and anesthesia and endoscopy were then pursued the following morning.  

For this pet, endoscopy went well. An Olympus 9 mm-diameter video-endoscopy system was used, along with ingenuity (using a baby bottle liner), to go into the stomach via the throat/esophagus and then to the stomach. In golf terms, this involved working to put the “ball into the “hole.” But for this situation, we had to bring the hole to the ball, then trap it in the liner, and bring it back up with the endoscope. This is often a tricky effort as the ball is slick and moves around while the stomach is contracting. Fortunately, the ball was successfully captured and removed, and the pup was able to recover uneventfully.  

This made for a very interesting Saturday morning at AVIM&O, working closely with our colleagues at Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Center.