Sunday 17 December 2017

Injury was bolt out of the blue

Labrador elsie became impaled on metal underneath a trampoline after leaping up suddenly

Owner: Juliette (12) and Elizabeth (4) Coffey from Killiney

Pets: Elsie, their four-year-old Labrador

Background: Elsie was badly injured on protruding bolts on the underside of the family's trampoline

One Friday afternoon recently, the Coffey family were in the back garden enjoying the sunshine. The girls' mum, Louise, was on a recliner reading a book while the children were throwing a tennis ball back and forth.

Elsie was snoozing in the shady space beneath one of those large, circular trampolines that are so common in Irish back gardens. It was an idyllically peaceful scene, and worries of any sort of unfortunate accident taking place were the last thing on anyone's mind.

The calm was suddenly shattered by the sound of Elsie squealing loudly, as if in serious pain. Everyone stopped what they were doing and ran across to her: what was happening?


It wasn't obvious at the time but, looking back, this was the sequence of events. A tennis ball, thrown by one of the children, had bounced close to Elsie, still snoozing beneath the trampoline. She loves chasing balls and the sight of it close to her was enough to wake her up and stimulate her to run after it. She leapt to her feet and lunged after the ball. That's when the accident happened.

Elsie had been lying in the shade, close to the warm metalwork of the underside of the trampoline. There were a number of protruding bolts on the inside of the metal framework. These would not normally cause any problem: they are high up on the inside of the structure, well away from any likely points of contact with children playing.

The ends of the bolts did not seem obviously sharp in any way. However, when Elsie jumped up suddenly, she threw her full weight against one of the protruding pieces of metal. The effect was similar to being stabbed by a screwdriver – the metal bolt punctured the skin on her flank.

For a few seconds, poor Elsie was impaled on the inside of the trampoline, and this is when they had all heard her squealing.

As people ran up to her, Elsie managed to wriggle away from the metal bolt, and she raced around the garden, still yelping in pain. After a few minutes, she calmed down and allowed the Coffeys to examine her.

At first, the injury did not seem severe: there was no bleeding and Elsie's fur covered the wound, so that it looked more like a graze than a laceration.

Elsie settled down, so they thought it had been a lucky escape. They brought Elsie in to see me anyway, in case some sort of follow-up like an anti-tetanus injection might be needed.

In fact, dogs don't need anti-tetanus injections, but whenever a dog is injured, good wound care is important, ensuring that any injured area is cleaned up and bathed regularly to keep it clean. As a first step, I clipped the fur away from the edge of the 'graze' on Elsie's side and that's when the full extent of her injury became obvious.


The metal bolt had gone right through her skin, causing a 10cm long laceration that had also torn some of the muscles beneath the surface. She was fortunate her abdominal cavity had not been penetrated: this would have been a life-threatening injury.

I had to give her a general anaesthetic, clean up the inside of the wound and suture the skin together. She also had to wear an Elizabethan collar for 10 days.

Elsie made a full recovery, and she's already gone back to sleeping beneath the trampoline – but she now chooses a spot away from those harmless-looking yet dangerous bolts.

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