News & Advice

Fishing gear and pets don’t mix – Embedded or Swallowed Fishing hooks

Dec 1, 2021 | Dogs, Pet Health

The holiday season is rapidly approaching and, for those of us with pets, there are a few extra considerations when we are out and about this summer, one of them being that our pets and fishing gear don’t mix. Whether you’re cleaning fishing gear after a day out on the water or taking your best mate with you, be mindful that your pet may not understand what smells like food isn’t always actually food. The Anexa Morrinsville team recently saw Blaze a 10-month-old Labrador dog. He presented with vomiting and was clearly uncomfortable. After being examined by vet, Vinnie Ferigo and having an x-ray, it was discovered that Blaze had eight obvious foreign objects in his gut. These turned out to be lead fishing sinkers. This enthusiastic pup had swallowed eight sinkers without his owner realising, surprising everyone. Luckily, thanks to the owner seeking vet advice quickly and the team’s surgical skills Blaze has made a good recovery. If the sinkers had remained inside him, there was potential for complications due to them causing a bowel obstruction and of course lead poisoning. If you are faced with a similar situation and think your pet maybe have eaten some of your fishing gear the best thing to do is consult your vet for advice.

Xray showing the six round sinkers in Blaze’s stomach and two in the intestine.

Anexa Vets, Georgie Rosendaal and Vinnie Ferigo remove sinkers from Blaze’s stomach and intestines.

Sinkers taken out of Blaze, if you look closely you can see teeth marks.

Dogs, cats and fishhooks

Dogs and cats with embedded or swallowed fishhooks is a problem we see quite a bit during the summer. Usually, the pets belong to people who are enjoying some recreational fishing while on holiday, but sometimes dogs will pick up old hooks when exploring beach or wharf areas, particularly at low tide.

What to do when hooks are embedded in the tissues of the mouth or skin:

Check to see whether it is buried deeper than the barb. If not, the hook should pull out easily, but if the barb is embedded then generally a trip to the local vet is required. In a case such as shown, always use wire cutters to cut the barb off first before removing the hook as dragging the barb back through can cause more damage and pain. Often, pets can become quite distressed and it is better to seek veterinary help to deal with them.

What does the vet do?

In most of these cases the animal is administered a short-acting anaesthetic, the barb is pushed through the tissue (rather than pulled back), the hook is cut in half and removed. Sometimes antibiotics are required.

What to do when if a hook is swallowed:

If your dog swallows a fishhook and there is a length of trace leading from your dog’s mouth do not try to pull the hook out. You will only increase the likelihood of further damage. Cut the trace and tie the end loosely onto the dog’s collar. Although your dog may bite through the trace before you get to the vet generally this is not of consequence. At the clinic we will examine the dog’s mouth to ensure that the hook is not lodged in the back of the throat, then take x-rays to determine the location of the hook. Usually, it is sitting within the stomach, which leaves two possible courses of action:
  1. Surgery to open the stomach and remove the hook; or
  2. Wait to see if the hook moves through the gastrointestinal system and is passed out in the faeces. If this latter option is chosen, the dog will need a course of antibiotics. We feed dogs several small wads of cotton wool hidden within some mince or dog roll. The cotton wool tends to wrap around the hook in the stomach and thereby reduces the chance of the barb catching in the lining of the gut as the hook passes through. You need to monitor the faeces until the hook is recovered. If the dog shows any behaviour that is out of the ordinary, particularly gastrointestinal signs such as reduced/lost appetite or vomiting, contact the vet immediately.
The chance of a hook passing through the gut without incident depends on a number of factors, including the size of the hook in relation to the dog, the length and type of trace attached, and whether there are any other hooks or tackle attached to the same length of the trace. In our experience, most single hooks attached to a length of nylon trace in dogs larger than a fox terrier will pass through the gut without any complications, generally within 24-48 hours of being swallowed. For this reason, and because the surgical option is costly and not entirely without risk, most of the cases we see are dealt with conservatively, but the risk factors for each individual case must be weighed up. For example, if a hook has become lodged in the gut wall and appropriate action is not taken, then the consequences are likely to be fatal. Therefore, any dog that has swallowed a fishhook should be assessed by a vet with minimal delay.
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