19 July 2022

A grateful dog owner has paid a glowing tribute to the team here at Willows who saved her young Labrador’s life.

Pet owner Amanda Coleman, from Leicestershire, feared the worst throughout a dramatic four-month fight for life for three-year-old Poppy, which began when the young lab was speared in the neck by a stick.

Incredibly, four inches of the stick remained lodged in her swollen neck for more than six weeks and went unnoticed, despite several visits to local vets.

Amanda said it was only after Poppy was referred to our small animal specialist Erika Villedieu here at Willows, that the problem was finally identified.

Amanda recalled the traumatic experience, saying: “We first realised something was wrong when Poppy started coughing and gagging on her night-time walk.

“She was bleeding from the back of her mouth and gagging as if she had something stuck in her throat.

“We went to our local emergency vets who stabilised Poppy and treated the bleeding, however they were unable to see that a piece of the stick was embedded in Poppy’s neck with use of X-rays alone.  

“Four days later, Poppy came home from the emergency vet on a course of steroids with a nasogastric feeding tube but as the steroid dose was reduced over time, she became really poorly and our vet referred her to Willows.

“It was there that Poppy had her first CT scan and Erika found a four-inch piece of stick still embedded in her neck more than six weeks after her accident.

“At first, we were stunned that Poppy had been walking around with this stick still inside without anyone realizing. I was so relieved something had been found, though, and Poppy could have the surgery straight away.”

Erika operated immediately to remove the stick but said surgery was not the simple solution that was expected.

She explained: “The CT scan carried out by Willows world-leading Specialist Radiology team confirmed a four-inch piece of wooden stick had lodged itself in Poppy’s neck and was causing an abscess.

“The wooden stick was removed surgically and one of Poppy’s salivary glands also had to be removed as it had been damaged by the stick.

“Poppy received a long course of antibiotics after surgery however, despite her neck swelling having resolved, Poppy continued to experience heavy drooling, attempts to swallow and discomfort.”

Amanda added: “Poppy was withdrawn, lethargic, drooling continually, not interested in her food or anything else, and wouldn’t walk anywhere.

“A month later, Poppy was still not getting any better so we had a difficult conversation with Erika as we felt Poppy’s quality of life was being so badly affected and she was slowly starving herself.”

Erika said: “Poppy’s condition was unusual given that the wooden stick had been removed and the swelling had resolved, and so we carried out a second CT scan to further understand Poppy’s condition.

“This confirmed the abscess was resolved and that the wooden stick had been fully removed, however all of Poppy’s salivary glands appeared slightly bigger than normal.

“A presumed diagnosis of sialadenosis (swelling of the salivary glands) was made and Poppy was started on phenobarbitone, an anti-epileptic medication.

“Happily, Poppy’s signs completely resolved within two days of starting the medication and she is now back to her very lively self, enjoying her walks.”

Owner Amanda said the relief was overwhelming and praised Erika and the team here at Willows for performing “a miracle” on the family’s beloved pet.

Amanda said: “Throughout the entire four months we worried constantly. Poppy was never left alone – she even came to work with me – and we had numerous visits to our local vets in between the ones to Willows.

“We honestly thought we would lose Poppy after all she had been through.

“It was a long road to recovery for Poppy and it would never have been possible if it was not for Erika, and the team at Willows. We can’t thank them all enough for what they achieved.

“Poppy is back to her normal boisterous, silly, bouncy self. Before the accident, we always used to say that Poppy was hyperactive and when I picked her up from Willows after the second CT scan and saw her bouncing and dragging Erika across the waiting room to get to me, I knew we had our crazy girl back!

“I couldn’t stop smiling, and couldn’t thank Erika enough. She was amazing and performed nothing short of a miracle to save Poppy’s life.”