When two-year-old Oreo arrived one morning at the ASPCA Animal Hospital, she was lethargic, hypothermic and dehydrated. Her owner, Rosa A. of Manhattan, reported that she had been vomiting and not eating for several days. ASPCA veterinarian Dr. Felicia Magnaterra also noticed a string, or thread, protruding from Oreo’s rectum. “It was no surprise. String-type foreign objects can get stuck in cats and dogs, and do all the time,” said Dr. Magnaterra. Items like thread and dental floss are among the most common mistakenly ingested by cats.
But Oreo’s x-rays soon pointed to another culprit: a sewing needle lodged in her colon, which had made its way through her gastrointestinal (GI) tract, attached to thread. “That was a total surprise!” Dr. Magnaterra exclaimed.
Oreo was soon anesthetized and, using careful digital—finger—manipulation, another ASPCA veterinarian, Dr. Marisa Altieri, gently re-positioned the needle from a perpendicular position to a parallel position in line with Oreo’s colon wall. “The process took carefully planned movements to avoid puncturing the colon wall with the sharp ends of the sewing needle,” explained Dr. Magnaterra. Once the needle was in the correct position, Dr. Altieri gently applied traction until it was exteriorized through the rectum. The entire procedure took 30 minutes.
“It’s very uncommon, but impressive, that the needle had made its way all the way through the GI tract without causing significant damage to tissue,” Dr. Magnaterra said. Doctors speculate the needle may have come out with Oreo’s next bowel movement, but pulling on the string would have likely changed the needle’s position once again—from parallel to perpendicular to the colonic wall—causing it to lodge in her colon.
“It could have perforated her stomach, small intestine or colon,” Dr. Magnaterra explained. “Had this happened, GI contents would have leaked into the abdomen causing a septic peritonitis, or infected abdomen, a very serious condition and surgical emergency that comes with a very guarded prognosis for full recovery.”
Oreo, however, was lucky. Because of the needle’s shape and size, and because the GI contents were able to pass around it, her body was able to move the needle through her GI tract. A day later, she was back to her normal self and went home.