A rescue dog from Bosnia who loves to swallow tennis balls has undergone a challenging minimally invasive procedure at a Cambridgeshire animal hospital to remove the latest foreign object.

Three-year-old Trickster, a mix breed who now lives with her owners Alice Toby-Brant and Chris Toby in Longstanton, was treated at Linnaeus-owned DWR Veterinary Specialists in Six Mile Bottom, near Cambridge after she snaffled the discarded tennis ball while out on a walk.

Trickster has always had a penchant for chewing small balls, although thankfully she doesn’t always swallow them. It is believed this may be related to steroids she is on for an autoimmune disease, with the medication making her feel hungry, although this is not certain.

The first time Trickster swallowed a tennis ball she was taken to an emergency vet, who gave her medication to make her sick in the hope she could bring it back up – but when this didn’t work, she was referred to DWR, where an endoscopy procedure was performed to retrieve it. 

This involved passing a telescopic camera down her food pipe (oesophagus) and into her stomach where the tennis ball, which was split open down the middle, could be grasped and removed via her mouth.

When Trickster swallowed a tennis ball a second time, it was not possible to remove it in the same way because it remained in one piece and could not be easily grasped as it sat in the stomach. Instead, Trickster needed to have an operation by the specialist surgeons at DWR. 

The surgeons had to open Trickster’s abdomen and then manipulate the stomach to push the ball into the teeth of the forceps to allow it to be retrieved. This procedure avoided surgically opening the stomach lining itself leading to a quicker recovery.

Alice said she had spent many hours training Trickster to stop chewing tennis balls since she came to live with her as a six-month-old puppy. 

Alice said: “When she was younger, we noticed that Trickster would take tennis balls, run away and hide with them, so we started training her to drop them.

“Nearly all the times that Trickster picks up a ball, she will drop it - but on two occasions, she’s thought ‘I’m not going to drop it, I’m going to keep it’.

“We cannot confirm it’s due to the medication that she’s on, and she’s now on a very low dose, with the hope she will be able to come off it altogether, as she’s not had any relapses for a couple of years.

“However, since the operation, we’ve kept a muzzle on while she’s off the lead.”

Simon Tappin, clinical director at DWR Veterinary Specialists, said: “We know Trickster very well, as our neurology team treat her autoimmune disease. The second occasion we removed a tennis ball was by a rarely-performed procedure and was a complete success. 

“We’re pleased to hear that Trickster has not swallowed any more tennis balls since then.”

DWR Veterinary Specialists offers specialist-led care in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, diagnostic pathology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine, interventional radiology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, physiotherapy and soft tissue surgery.

For more information, visit www.dickwhitereferrals.com or search for DWR Veterinary Specialists on social media. 

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