It had been a perfect evening on the beach. The campfire was intoxicating and the s’mores (with their melt-in-your-mouth chocolate, and gooey marshmallows, precisely smushed between two crispy graham crackers) had never tasted so good. While we savored our meticulously roasted treats, marvelled at the majestic skyline, laughed and reminisced, our dog fervently dug a hole in the sand. Did I mention that it had been a perfect evening? We truly thought that it had been.
The next morning, when we went to take our dog, Cody, for his walk, he could barely move. His eyes revealed a horrifying and unmistakable pain. We immediately drove to a nearby animal clinic. A blood sample revealed a higher than normal reading for Cody’s liver. The vet sent us home with some medicine for Cody to take with his food. After hours of patiently trying to coax Cody to take even the smallest sip of water, it was painfully clear that Cody would not, or could not, eat or drink.
We drove back to the vet. An x-ray was taken. The result: Cody’s intestine was fully impacted with sand. How was that even possible? Cody has a (very well-deserved) reputation for being the most finicky dog around –almost always sniffing his food with extreme caution — and then refusing anything not to his liking. Why would he eat sand?
Apparently, dogs digest sand more often than we would think. Sometimes, the sand is simply consumed by dogs picking up sticks, rocks and tennis balls on the shore. At other times, dogs find a piece of discarded food on the beach that they gobble down–sand and all. And, most likely in Cody’s case, when dogs are digging with their paws and snout, dirt or sand is inevitably swallowed. It can all happen in the blink of an eye. If the sand accumulation is not diagnosed correctly and quickly, the results can be costly—and worse—they can be fatal.
Sand impaction is caused by sand entering the intestines, aggravating the lining and creating a blockage. Symptoms of sand accumulation in dogs include: refusing food, lethargy, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration, and pain. As the sand impaction does not allow food to pass through the intestine, vomiting is commonly associated with this condition. A mineral oil solution was given to Cody to help loosen the sand and get it moving. This treatment should only be administered by a veterinarian as mineral oils can lead to aspiration phenomena if the dog then begins to vomit. Other treatments may include: IV fluid therapy, stomach pumping, medications to break up the sand, and surgery. It can take days for the sand to pass through completely. For Cody, the oil concoction began noticeably working within seven hours. Twenty-four hours after that, the sand had all passed, and Cody was back to his old antics. Insert immense gratitude and relief here!
What did we learn? All of the above. We had no knowledge of this condition previously. However, our biggest takeaway was not new learning; rather it was an invaluable reminder. In less than an instant, the most ordinary, or even blissful time, can go horribly wrong. In our retirement, Richard and I have been extremely grateful for our time together and our time with friends and family and with Cody (who turns eleven in June). This incident made us more mindful of slowing down to appreciate all that we have.
As for Cody, are his beach days now numbered? Absolutely not. He loves the beach and has been there countless times before. But, going forward, we will be much more vigilant. And, Cody will be totally busted from digging on the beach from this point on!