An x-ray image of the fishing hook swallowed by Balsa the border collie last week. (Supplied: Lisa Kempf)
Balsa the border collie is lucky to be alive after swallowing a fishing hook and more than a metre of line when out on a pre-dawn walk on the Sunshine Coast last Friday.
The early morning ordeal sent the 12-month-old pet dog to the vet, leaving owner Lisa Kempf and her husband with a vet bill close to $3,000.
The high school teacher said she was on a walk with a friend and Balsa swallowed the hook and line on Friday just after 5:00am.
Balsa was on a leash and near popular Mooloolaba Beach at the time.
It was still dark when Ms Kempf said she heard a “crunching noise” coming from her dog’s mouth.
“I stopped to check his mouth thinking he had picked up a chicken bone and realised there was nothing there,” she said.
Upon closer inspection she felt the fishing line, about a metre long, hanging out of his month.
“I gently pulled to realise he had swallowed something and immediately said to my friend, ‘I need to get him to the vet’.”
“He didn’t seem to be in pain but the fishing line was annoying him.”
Balsa was rushed to a 24-hour animal hospital and was immediately sedated and x-rayed, confirming the fishing hook was lodged in the dog’s stomach.
The veterinarian tried dislodging the hook through Balsa’s mouth with the help of an endoscope, but to no avail, so the dog was taken into surgery.
“The vet said it was textbook surgery and all went well,” Ms Kempf said.
“As the stomach doesn’t always heal as well as other parts, they use some of his fat so help seal the stomach wound.
“He [the vet] did describe the surgery where the vet pulled his stomach out through the cut and the vet nurse held it while the vet retrieved the hook and sewed the wound.”
Balsa was released from the vet surgery about 12 hours later, spent the day on a drip and left with a massive surgical scar and pain relief for the coming days.
“He’s on antibiotics and with the stomach, the next seven days are crucial to ensure the wound does heal,” Ms Kempf said.
“He’s sore and sorry but we are grateful this hook had line attached otherwise it may have been too late for Balsa.”
Ms Kempf said the total cost from the emergency surgery was more than $2,700.
She said “reckless” recreational fishers were to blame.
“My message to those who do recreational fishing is simple … what you bring to fish with, goes home with you too.”
Pets swallowing fishing hooks ‘very common’
Dr Danielle Huston from Tanawah Animal Emergency Service, which treated Balsa, said the border collie was one of four dogs brought to them in the space of a week after swallowing fishing hooks.
“It’s a very common thing we see, unfortunately. And it’s a life-threatening problem, it’s pretty serious,” she said.
“It’s a fairly regular thing we see on the coast. I work at this clinic and at Underwood [south of Brisbane] and I’ve seen so many more since moving to the coast … it’s certainly not uncommon.”
Dr Huston said the problem did not only affect dogs.
“We’ve removed them from turtles in the past, so wildlife’s been affected,” she said.
“I’ve seen cats as well with fishing hooks stuck in their nose and lip. We had a cat that stood on one in the shed at home and it went through their paw.”
Dr Huston said any pet owners suspecting their animal has swallowed a fishing hook or line should immediately seek veterinary help.
“The risks we get are fishing hooks can puncture from the oesophagus, stomach or small intestine and that can cause life-threatening problems,” she said.
“There’s absolutely no question it can kill them. The potential of it passing through without causing a problem is very low.”
Dr Huston also urged recreational fishers to do better in cleaning up after themselves.
“It’s not always malicious — lines can snap and wash up later, but most certainly watch your stuff and clean up after yourself.”