Ajax, a 9 year old, male neutered Labrador, has a history of being an avid stick chaser and ten days previous was chasing sticks in the park. The owner reported that Ajax started acutely gagging and retching after leaping to catch one. On presentation to North Coast Veterinary Specialist & Referral Centre Ajax, was pyrexic, had swelling of the ventral neck area, and neck pain.
Physical Examination revealed moderate thickening, fluctuant swelling and discomfort over the neck area. Ajax was admitted to hospital for further work up.Ultrasound examination revealed a small amount of free fluid and moderate disorganised tissue swelling. Pharyngeal examination under anaesthesia area revealed a small wound dorsal to the epiglottis. Radiographs of the neck revealed moderate soft tissue swelling dorsal to the oesophagus and mild cervical emphysema.
A presumptive diagnosis of penetrating stick injury was made and surgical exploration advised. A ventral midline cervical incision was made with examination of all tissues. A large stick foreign body was found dorsal to the oesophagus. This was subsequently removed, all tissues examined and flushed with routine closure. No drain was placed.
Ajax was dramatically improved the day after surgery and went on to recover completely. Ajax was very lucky dog. In specialist practice we see these injuries reasonably commonly and they do not always turn out favourably. Stick chasing is an inherently dangerous pastime and along with feeding bones is risky for oesophageal foreign bodies. Surgery is almost always indicated to explore and confirm no foreign material remains.