Hartlepool vet removes kebab skewer that was just 1cm from Cockapoo's heart in lifesaving operation

The 18-month-old pooch underwent complex emergency surgery carried out by Sarah Crawford, clinical director at Clifton Lodge Vets in Hartlepool. Credit: Clifton Lodge Vets

A vet has saved a Cockapoo's life by removing a kebab skewer which was 1cm away from piercing his heart.

Rolo's family believe the dog had been walking around with the wooden stick inside him for months - after sneaking a kebab at a summer barbecue last year.

It is thought the lethal piece of wood pierced his stomach and "managed to migrate into his chest".

The 18-month-old pooch underwent complex emergency surgery carried out by Sarah Crawford, clinical director at Clifton Lodge Vets in Hartlepool.

Ms Crawford opened Rolo’s chest cavity during the delicate two-hour operation to find the stick lodged beneath his ribs, with one end pressed against the body wall. The other end was dangerously close to his heart.

Rolo had suffered vomiting and diarrhoea after eating the skewer, but X-rays did not reveal anything unusual as wood does not tend to show up on scans. His symptoms cleared up with treatment.

Months later Rolo's owner Joanne Ogden tried to pick him up, putting her hands underneath his stomach, and he yelped.

She raised the alarm after spotting a lump on his side. CT and ultrasound scans showed the sharp skewer in Rolo’s chest. Because of its location, surgery was the only option to save his life.

The sharpness of the skewer shows how close to disaster Rolo was. Credit: Evening Gazette

Rolo started breathing independently again, as soon as his chest was sewn up and was walking around within the hour. Ms Crawford said: “We believe the stick had somehow been ingested and pierced his stomach at some point and managed to migrate into his chest.

"The stick was about 1cm away from his heart and the other end was poking out towards the body wall." If the stick had worked its way into the heart, she added, Rolo would have died quite quickly.

"He was on a lot of antibiotics because of the infection created around the stick," she said. "Sooner or later the body would have grown resistant to the antibiotics. If there’s something still in there causing the infection you can’t win that battle.”

The vets' head nurse Louise Craggs gave oxygen to Rolo while senior veterinary nurse Sue Gibson closely monitored his vital signs, such as heart rate and breathing during the op.

"As soon as we opened the chest," Sarah added. "The lungs stopped inflating because of the negative pressure. Louise was literally breathing for him throughout the surgery and Sue was monitoring him.

"We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our nurses who provide such excellent patient care. We went in, and the stick was there, poking out.

"We removed it in two halves as it had broken in the middle. As soon as I closed him up, he started breathing for himself. It was amazing. It was major surgery but within an hour he was up and about and eating.

"There’s always a risk of post-operative infection but we have seen him back for a few checks and he is doing really well. It is so rewarding when a plan comes together."

Rolo and his owner Joanne leave the surgery, with the former none the wiser about the dangers of consuming skewers. Credit: Evening Gazette

Fearing the worst, his relieved owner has said she "can't thank the team enough" for their lifesaving care. She said: "With Rolo being a puppy, he explores everything, so I was always vigilant about picking things off the ground. But he definitely sneaked the kebab from somewhere, whether from the table or bin.

"It was a shock to see the skewer so close to his heart on the scans. I prepared myself for the worst because of where the stick was and how risky surgery was going to be.

"When Sarah rang to say he was out of surgery and breathing on his own, I was shocked. He has made an incredible recovery. He is back to his normal self apart from having a scar down his chest.

"He is very energetic and has a lovely, funny character with a little bit of sass as well. When I walk into the vets practice now everybody knows him. I can’t thank them enough. The care has been amazing.”

Clifton Lodge Vets has surgeries in Billingham, Sedgefield and Horden as well as its branch on Stockton Road, Hartlepool, where Rolo was treated.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...