Norman is a 4 year old Pug who is generally fit and well. Last month he started vomiting, went off his food and became quiet and uncomfortable. His presentation and preliminary tests were suggestive of pancreatitis and he initially responded well to the pain relief and bland diet we use to treat this condition. A few days later he lost his appetite again and became increasingly painful in his abdomen, so he was admitted for intravenous fluids, pain relief and further investigations. Under sedation vet Christina was able to feel an abnormal structure in his abdomen which was causing him a lot of pain. Norman didn’t have a history of eating a foreign object such as a stone, and his x-rays were inconclusive, so we needed to perform surgery to make a diagnosis.
Norman had a general anaesthetic and we performed exploratory surgery. His stomach was very distended and solid, which is abnormal. We made an incision and removed a large mass of hair, approximately 10 x 5cm. This extended out of the stomach into his intestines (see photo). We closed this incision and checked his intestines – the mass Christina could feel was another smaller matt of hair, which had blocked his small intestine. The tail of hair behind the main matt had caused his intestines to pleat together painfully. This hair was removed through 3 surgical sites in the intestine wall. We presumed the hair must be human as Norman has a short coat. Once all the incisions had been closed, his abdomen was flushed thoroughly with warm sterile fluid and his abdomen was sutured. Norman had been under anaesthetic for several hours.
We updated his owner by phone and she explained that Norman has a habit of licking everything. Over the course of months or years Norman must have licked up a lot of his owners hair, which instead of being passed through his digestive tract had matted together to form these blockages. Because it had happened very gradually, Norman had been able to tolerate it until his stomach was completely full and his intestines started being affected.
He continued on pain relief, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. By that evening he was looking brighter. The following day he started eating small amounts and his appetite has now returned even better than before; he has made an excellent recovery.
Norman’s owners are now spending a lot of time hoovering, to try to ensure this doesn’t happen again