Alfa is a rescue dog: Julie took her in from the Wicklow SPCA a few months ago. She has settled well into Julie's home, apart from one complication: she is a little glutton, and keeps eating things that are dangerous for her. There have now been four occasions where she has needed the canine equivalent of having her stomach pumped to save her life.
The first episode happened when Alfa managed to grab and chew a sharp plastic fork that dropped to the ground when Julie was doing her recycling. A sharp prong was missing from the fork, so Julie took her to the vet: she was given an injection which caused her to vomit, successfully ejecting the piece of fork with no problem.
Next, Alfa stole some meat that had been left on a counter, which included two large metal clips. These were so large that they were almost certain to cause an intestinal obstruction that would require radical surgery to save her life. This time, it was at the weekend, and Julie took her into the emergency vet.
Once again, she was given an injection to induce vomiting, and she successfully brought back the dangerous pieces of metal.
On the third occasion, Alfa managed to swallow something poisonous. Julie is involved in the marketing of special Christian-themed Easter Eggs (www.happyeasteregg.ie - "the egg that puts Jesus back at the heart of Easter"), and there were a few chocolate eggs left over.
Julie had just started eating one, when she had to leave the room for a few minutes. Alfa didn't waste time: she jumped up onto the dining room table and gobbled down the egg. Julie's other dog, Riley, seemed to know that this was the wrong thing to do, and she rushed out after Julie, nuzzling her and harassing her to get her to come back to the dining room. Julie didn't know if Riley had also eaten some of the chocolate so this time the vet gave both dogs the injection to cause vomiting.
As it happened, Riley was innocent: when they were sick, the contents of the dogs' stomachs showed that Alfa was the one who had scoffed all the chocolate. It was just as well that she had been given the injection: if no action had been taken, she had eaten enough chocolate to cause fatal poisoning in a small dog.
The most recent episode of forced stomach emptying was also unusual. This time, Alfa had raided the bin, eating the plastic film and metal clips that wrap the meat that Julie feeds her pets. Julie was afraid this might get stuck inside her, so again, I gave the injection to induce vomiting.
To our surprise, the metal clips were the least of our worries: as well as these, Alfa regurgitated a long sock-like piece of fabric that Julie recognised as part of one of Alfa's much-loved dog toys.
The fabric was much too big to pass through her digestive tract successfully, and it would definitely have caused her intestines to become tangled and obstructed if it had not been brought back up. She would have become seriously ill, and would have needed major, life-threatening surgery if she had not been forced to regurgitate the fabric.
Julie hadn't realised that Alfa had swallowed the piece of toy, and it turned out to be a real blessing that she had decided to have her stomach emptied. As someone with a deep Christian faith, Julie is convinced that God prompted her to take Alfa to the vet to have the regurgitation injections, and that this saved Alfa's life. It did seem like a very strange coincidence, and it's easy to believe that this was a miracle in action.
Julie has learned her lesson: her home has to have everything remotely attractive to Alfa completely out of her reach. Julie - and Alfa - have both had enough of repeated vomit-inducing injections.
> Some dogs are prone to eating the wrong things
> An injection to cause vomiting is like having a dog's stomach pumped out
> Stomach-emptying is far better than needing surgery later