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The case of Lotus and the fat balls

At this time of year, it’s good to spare a thought for our wildlife.

That’s what Lotus’ owner had done, but she never expected it to make Lotus so poorly.
Lotus is one of a group of four small dogs who share an organic garden. One morning she
fell really ill. She had terrible diarrhoea, and began being sick. Within two hours she was
vomiting blood. It was obvious to Lx that she needed urgent veterinary attention.

We admitted Lotus into hospital immediately. At less than four kilos, she had few reserves to
draw on, and needed immediate intravenous fluid therapy to replace the losses she was

Once in intensive care in our isolation unit, in case she was contagious, we began a process
of differential diagnosis. How does a three year old dog who was perfectly fine yesterday fall
so ill so fast, when the other three in her family are fine?

The owner was anxious that the minced chicken she ate last night could have contained a
bone that had torn her insides? We considered an ulcer in the stomach, an infection such as
Salmonella, a bleeding disorder, exposure to rat poison and lungworm. We decided we
needed more information and called her owner to ask some further questions.

And then it all made sense. Lotus’ owner had gone home after her appointment to find one
of Lotus’ friends, also now had an upset stomach, and the fat balls she had put out for the
birds were mysteriously absent from the bird table.

Meanwhile, our blood test had shown that Lotus was experiencing an acute attack of
pancreatitis. Suddenly the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together.

We think that Lotus somehow stole the birds’ fat balls, and ate the lion’s share, leaving only
a small amount for her friend.

Lotus’ pancreas received such a shock at attempting to digest such a quantity of pure fat, it
became hugely upset and inflamed, setting off the haemorrhagic gastroenteritis, vomiting
and diarrhoea. But, once no more fat was being eaten, and appropriate supportive therapy
administered, Lotus’ pancreas was able to settle down, the stomach to heal, and she had
returned to normal in 48 hours, her friend also recovered very quickly.

So, whilst encouraging Lotus’ owner to still care for the birds, we will not be letting any of the
doggy family near the bird table again, and poor Lotus will have to avoid all fatty foods for
the foreseeable future, in case she sets her pancreas off again.

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