15 December 2023

A dog lover has spoken of his horror at finding his 10-month-old puppy impaled on a 13-inch stick.

Kevin Blythe, from Hereford, said he heard a “howl of agony” and then discovered his cocker spaniel Louie with a stick stuck deep into his throat.

Local vets only gave the treasured family pet a 50-50 chance of survival and advised Louie should be referred for specialist care here at Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service.  

Kevin relived the traumatic moment as part of an episode of the popular Channel 5 TV show The Dog Hospital, which has been covering some of the most serious cases dealt with at our busy multidisciplinary hospital.

He said: “We were out on our evening walk with Louie when there was a howl of agony and I look over and he has impaled himself on a stick which is stuck right down his throat.

“He was frantic trying to get it out. It was my son who got their first and pulled it out.

“We didn’t know how much damage had been done but his breathing was getting shallower and shallower so we took him to our local vets who discovered he had a punctured lung and when I asked about his chances the vet said ’50-50.’

“That’s why they referred Louie for specialist care at Willows, as they have such extensive experience of dealing with traumatic injuries.”

Willows’ Clinical Director Chris Shales, a Specialist in Small Animal Surgery, took charge of the case and was concerned that the damage to Louie’s lung might not be the only problem.

Chris carried out an exploratory operation with an endoscope (a micro-camera and tools on a flexible tube) to look for damage to vital organs and soft tissue.

He revealed just how lucky Louie had been: “Stick injuries in dogs are notoriously problematic because when the stick goes in it tends to leave a trail of destruction behind.

“Louie was extremely fortunate as the stick had stopped just short of his heart and just millimetres away from some of his larger vessels.

“If it had punctured one of these, he probably wouldn’t have made it to the first vets.”

Louie still wasn’t in the clear, though, with Chris revealing another danger to his chances of a full recovery.

He added: “Any tiny bits of stick left behind internally could go on to cause an abscess and serious infections.

“We know that long term cases like that have a much worse outcome so we had to make sure we removed every little piece. In all, we removed 11 fragments ranging from one centimetre in length to just a few millimetres.”

An image of Louie, a springer spaniel dog, sat on a picnic table. Seated to the left is Louie's owners, Kevin and Nicky Blythe, to the right is Graeme Hall, presenter of the Dog Hospital with Graeme Hall

Kevin said he and wife Nicky were so relieved the touch-and-go drama had such a happy ending.

He added: “You can only put your dog into the vet’s hands and believe the specialist will do the best job he can. We had to believe Louie would come out the other end.”

Louie certainly did and Nicky is absolutely delighted and extremely grateful to Chris and our expert team. Nicky said: “He’s back to being a typical spaniel again. He’s daft as a brush! He’s a real soft, sensitive soul who loves a cuddle and sticks to you like glue.”