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Why You Should Always Listen to Your Clients

Collage of four photos: X-Ray, Internal imaging, Stick next to a dog, and Stick next to measuring tape

Tank is a 3.7 kg, 12-week-old Australian Shepherd that presented for vomiting, continually swallowing, and seeming uncomfortable. The owner reported that he ate an 8-inch stick whole (not much shorter than he was) just prior to presentation to his primary care veterinarian. A sedated oral exam was normal, and he was referred for additional diagnostics.

The exam was normal except for repeated swallowing attempts and being tender upon palpation of his neck. CBC and chemistry exam was normal. Lateral and cervical radiographs were obtained (see below) and seemed normal aside from some air in the esophagus but certainly no obvious 8-inch stick to me.

So, I was faced with non-specific exam findings and an owner who was certain Tank ate a large stick whole. Having learned to never say never we opted to move forward with endoscopy given the previous normal oral exam.

Upon passing the scope we saw the following in the esophagus.:

The stick was lodged in the esophagus just distal between the upper esophageal sphincter and the lower esophageal sphincter which was stretched caudally.

The owner was correct in that he had eaten a stick, but she was also incorrect. The stick was 10 inches in length and almost the length of Tank!!

The stick was removed, and Tank recovered without incident. As an aside, I always submit my imaging to a radiologist for an over-read. The report returned with a possible esophageal foreign body (stick) in the caudal esophagus. Those radiologists!! Obviously, this was confirmed upon endoscopy. Lessons learned- listen to your clients. The impossible may be possible.