Small things can cause a lot of trouble.
I'm not talking here about the difficulties in restraining aggressive dwarf hamsters for veterinary examination, or of blood testing 'hissy spitty feisty' kittens, but of instances when the cause of a serious, even life-threatening condition can be tiny.
Dogs in particular are prone to swallowing all sorts of things not really meant to be swallowed. So called 'foreign bodies' can actually lie unsuspected within the stomach for literally years without causing much bother.
'Crystal' was a Neopoliton Mastiff, one of the largest dog breeds we have in the UK, and an absolute sweetheart. Her owner fostered dogs for a local rescue, and if she ever took in baby puppies, within a few days Crystal would come into milk and take over feeding them. On the day she was to be spayed, Crystal was shut into the front pourch whilst the other dogs got breakfast. In a fit of temper, she retaliated by ripping up the blue lino from the pourch. She caused so much devestation that the owner ripped up the rest of the lino and threw it all out. Some five and a half years later, Crystal presented with a gastric bloat, an emergency situation where the stomach swells and fills with gas. Unusually, she had not been seen to eat anything ususual, and had not been fed that day. Once opened up, we found -----blue lino! Just a couple of pieces, about two inches square, but they had blocked the exit of the stomach.
'Barney' was a six year old bearded collie, apparently in good health and never seen other than for vaccinations until the day he came in dreadfully ill. Vomiting frequently, in severe abdominal pain and semi-collapsed, it wasn't looking good for him at all. Bloods and abdominal x-rays failed to give us a diagnosis and an 'abdominal catastrophe' was suspected. These are conditions such as twisted or ruptured bowels, ruptured abdominal tumours, perforating gastric ulcers etc. It would have been very easy to call it a day and put him to sleep on humane grounds, as we could not think of a 'nice' or 'fixable' diagnosis, but went ahead and opened him up. Much to our surpirse, his abdominal organs looked entirely normal. ???? A deeper investigation revealed a tumour - an entirely benign, fatty lump only about 3 cms in diameter, but it was positioned underneath one of his ureters, the tubing that leads from the kidney to the bladder, and was stretching the ureter. Now, we know that pain arising from the ureter (usually related to a moving kidney stone) is one of the most severe pains that there is. All his severe and worrying symptoms were entirely related to that pain and its resulting shock. The lump was easily removed, literally being 'scooped' out using fingertips alone, not even needing surgical resection, and on recovery from anaesthesia all the symptoms had gone. Barney never looked back and lived a long and happy life following his close brush with euthanasia.
Another Mastiff came our way recently, and unfortunately didn't have such a good outcome as Crystal. She began to lose weight, and to vomit at times, but remained bright and happy in herself. Routine bloods and x-rays were unremarkable. She ate well, but vomited most meals. As things continued, her weight loss accellerated, and we were forced to perform an exploratory operation. We found a tiny tumour, not more that one and a half centimetres diameter in this huge dog, but it was blocking the exit of the stomach, and meaning that the food she ate had no route to enter her intestines. Surgery was hopeless, and she was euthanased, a victim of a tiny problem.
Grass seeds are tiny things that cause severe problems. At the right time of year, they hook onto the fur and can gradually move through the skin of the paws or into ear canals. If swallowed, they can migrate through the bowel wall end end up underneath the spine, and very difficult to find they can be!