Mr Garbage Guts ….. (literally)!!

Meet Willis, our culprit of this month’s clinic blog!

Willis is an extremely inquisitive, exceptionally mischievous and a rather handsome young 2 year old Bull Terrier. Just look how innocent he looks in his picture…… However this is far from the truth!

This month we have been talking about bellies! We have spoken about Pancreatitis, GDV, dangerous foods and in particular gastrointestinal obstructions. Gastrointestinal obstructions are not uncommon. Our pets love to eat things they shouldn’t and sometimes these things get stuck and cause them to become unwell. Dogs are particularly susceptible as they love to scavenge but cats may also ingest objects such as string or plastic wrapping. This is where Willis comes in! When we think of gastrointestinal obstruction, Willis definitely comes to mind and for good reason!

 Willis’s story:

Well…Although Willis has spent his life so far on a good quality intestinal diet, his inquisitive and cheeky nature has led him to find other things to eat…. Things that are definitely inedible!

One morning, Willis’s mum noticed he was a bit off colour and seemed slightly painful in his belly. He also hadn’t eaten his dinner which was very out of character for the food-obsessed pooch. Willis’s mum, being a veterinary nurse at the clinic, had a sneaky suspicion something wasn’t quite right so brought him to the clinic where Dr Phillip performed an examination. He could tell Willis was experiencing stomach pain, so decided to take an x-ray for further investigation. The x-rays showed a large amount of gas and food in Willis’s belly. Knowing Willis’s history of chewing on, and eating random things, Dr Phillip decided that the best way to figure out what was going on was to take him to surgery to perform an exploratory laparotomy (exploration of the abdominal cavity).

What did we find?? Or what didn’t we find might be better asked?

Dr Phillip removed from Willis’s stomach:

  • Pieces of a material spa cover
  • Pieces of pot plants
  • Plastic rings from bottles
  • Nappies
  • Bandage material
  • Piece of garden hose
  • Piece of rope
  • And lots of other un-identifiable items

Once all these things were removed from his stomach and after spending a couple nights in hospital Willis made a full recovery. Due to the depth of his surgery, he had to be kept reasonably quiet and wear the “cone of shame” for the next two weeks.


The diagnosis for knowing if your pet has decided to eat something they shouldn’t have is best established by taking an x-ray of their abdomen. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know exactly what has been ingested as not all items show up on x-ray. If the obstruction is left too long, areas of the gut can become unhealthy and require extensive surgery. Early intervention and treatment is essential to ensure a good outcome.

How do you achieve that you ask? Being prompt with booking an appointment to see the vet if you have any concerns or if your pet is showing any signs of being unwell is the best way to get the diagnosis and treatment underway as quickly as possible.

Signs to look out for if your pet has an obstruction in their stomach are:

  • Not eating
  • Painful tummy when touched or picked up
  • Vomiting (especially after eating)
  • Lethargic/not themselves
  • Unable to pass faeces


If it has been confirmed that your pet has indeed eaten something they weren’t supposed to, the only treatment option is to perform an exploratory laparotomy. An exploratory laparotomy is a surgery where the organs in the abdomen, such as the stomach and intestines, are explored. Veterinarians look for foreign bodies or masses (lumps) that could be causing the pet to be unwell. If anything is found, it will be removed during this surgery.

These surgeries are expensive due to the extensive procedure, the medications and treatments that can occur when they are being treated, so it’s important to try and prevent your pooch or kitty from eating things they shouldn’t!

Dogs with a tendency to ingest foreign bodies may become repeat offenders, and owners of these pets should be aware of this and take proper precautions. For example, do not leave garbage bins accessible to your pet’s. Willis is now kept under close watch at all times to make sure he doesn’t find himself in trouble again.

If you ever have a hunch that your pet may have eaten something silly like Willis, please don’t hesitate to call us! We are always happy to examine your pet for piece of mind.

Providing the best veterinary health care for animals is important to us here at the Murray Bridge Veterinary Clinic. We have the facilities, equipment and trained, experienced staff to deal with any query on animal health and pet care. “We strive to provide outstanding service at all times”.