Three-year-old Hoosier is very active for an English Bulldog. He loves to run and play on the 11 acres of country property he lives on, even happily interacting with chickens and possums, although he’s terrified of deer. So when he was throwing up and acting lethargic, his owner, Stephanie Parker, knew something was wrong. 

Parker took him to the VCA Colonial Animal Hospital in Ithaca, NY for emergency care, where he was given some medication in case it was a gastrointestinal issue. However, the next day Hoosier was acting worse, so Parker called the hospital. “I said, we need to get back in and she had us come in within an hour,” says Parker.

“We ended up running some blood work and doing some imaging,” says Dr. Gillian Lawrence, Emergency and Critical Care Veterinarian. “The X-rays were really concerning for septic abdomen; there was fluid in the abdomen that shouldn't have been there and some gas. But we couldn't really see if there was an obstruction, so they confirmed that with the ultrasound and saw that there was some kind of toy or foreign object in his intestine that was causing a perforation and a leakage of bowel contents into his abdomen, which of course is a big life-threatening emergency.”

A successful surgery

Hoosier had a successful emergency surgery performed by Dr. Dennis Socha, where two foreign objects were removed: the squeaker that’s within a dog toy and a little red plastic heart, its origin of which is not known. 

“The only thing Hoosier's very sad about is when he did get home from the vet, he no longer had squeaky toys,” says Parker. “He has a couple of homemade stuff, toys that I've sewn for him with no squeakers in them. Anything we look at in the store, everything's got squeakers in them or buttons on them, so we're just very cautious about what he gets now.”
Hoosier is not the first animal to come into VCA Colonial with this issue. “I see a lot of squeakers causing problems -- the toys that have plastic on the inside -- and you don't even realize that your dog has gotten them open and eaten that,” says Dr. Lawrence. She also says to watch out for the pits of stone fruits with dogs, and for earplugs, string, and yarn with cats. In general, it’s best to closely supervise animals when playing with a toy they could ingest a piece of. “You never quite know what they're getting into when your back is turned,” says Dr. Lawrence.

Seeking emergency care

If your pet is vomiting large amounts or not responding to general supportive care, Dr. Lawrence says that’s a big red flag and they should be brought to emergency care. “Worst case scenario, I think for your wallet, is we do testing and it’s normal, but that’s always good news. Better safe than sorry, I think, especially for a young dog.”

Parker and her husband Patrick, whose own kids are grown and out of the house, say their dogs and cat are like their children and they were fine to pay for emergency care. “I had no issues with the cost of the bill, I just didn't have all that money upfront. So we applied for the CareCredit [Credit Card]” says Parker. “VCA mentioned it to my husband [as an option to pay for Hoosier’s care]. He went online, filled it out, and handed me my phone and said, ‘Here, I was approved.’ It was a very simple process. I logged in everything on the app on my phone. CareCredit was very easy to work with.” 

The hospital staff tried to keep costs down by sticking to oral meds, but Hoosier would not take any medication, food, or water from them. Fortunately, Parker was able to visit every day and Hoosier would eat and drink for her. “They really were amazing with teaming up with us to make sure he made it through this very scary situation,” says Susan Youngs, Referral Coordinator for VCA Colonial Animal Hospital. “It is so important for families and the medical team to work as a team to provide the best care.”

Becoming family

Despite this being the first visit to VCA Colonial for Hoosier – his original vet retired over the pandemic – Parker refers to the staff as their vet family. “The staff at VCA is very accommodating, very friendly,” says Parker. “The service of care we received, it's beyond worth every penny and more.”

Since then, the Parker’s other dog KC, who is Hoosier’s mom and a five-year-old English Bulldog, and their young cat, Poseidon, have also become established patients at VCA Colonial. And Hoosier is back to his gregarious self. “A month or so after surgery, I brought him in for a well-check and to renew his rabies shot, and a couple of the girls came out from the emergency side and they're like, ‘We have to say hi!’ and they were so excited that he actually jumped on them,” says Parker. “I love going to a vet that loves your dog.”
““It is so important for families and the medical team to work as a team to provide the best care," says Susan Youngs.”