Having graduated from veterinary school in 1982, this year marks my 30th year practicing veterinary medicine! Wow, that’s a lot of years! What feels most remarkable is that I’ve been able to work at the same profession for so long without becoming bored or complacent. I’m certain the reason is that not a single week goes by without my seeing or experiencing something new and exciting.
Take Dottie, for example. This exuberant 5-year-old spayed female Jack Russell Terrier mix was referred to me because of persistent vomiting despite treatment with a variety of medications. Little Miss Dot continued to eat well and she remained normally active, but her daily vomiting continued. Blood and urine testing were normal as were x-rays of her belly.
Physaloptera worms. Photo Credit vet.ohio-state.edu.
When I examined Dottie, had I not known better I would have thought she was a completely healthy little girl. I performed abdominal ultrasound, the results of which were normal. The next step was endoscopy in which a long telescope device was passed down her esophagus and into her stomach and upper small intestine. Lo and behold, when I entered Dot’s stomach I was greeted by a herd of little white worms! They were crawling every which way and many dove into their burrows within the lining of Dot’s stomach in response to the bright light of the endoscope. No wonder the poor girl was vomiting!
Never before thirty years of practice have I seen stomach worms, aka Physaloptera! I’ve just moved cross-country, so I assumed that I’d just encountered my first case of a disease that must be common in the Carolinas. Not so! Other than as photos in a textbooks, none of my coworkers had ever before seen Physaloptera. There was a crowd of twenty or so people crowded into the endoscopy suite in order to have a look. (I should have charged admission!)
Intestinal worms in dogs and cats are commonplace. Worms living (and burrowing) in the stomach are a rarity and I may have encountered my first and only career case of Physaloptera. These worms are transmitted via insects such as beetles, cockroaches, and crickets. Dogs who eat such critters are subject to developing stomach worms. The eggs of the worm may show up via fecal flotation (the stool sample is examined under the microscope). Veterinarians don’t commonly think of running fecals on patients with vomiting as the only symptom. I certainly won’t be skipping this test in the future! Running a simple fecal flotation is far less expensive and a whole lot easier on the patient than an endoscopic procedure.
Dot received the appropriate deworming medication and her vomiting has completely resolved. Her doting family members are thrilled with the outcome and they are going to do their best to prevent their little girl from snacking on insects in the future.
Do you encounter new and exciting things in your chosen profession? Please do tell!
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook
Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.