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Cavalier Spaniel Suffers Blockage from an Acorn

By Christy True
published: March 22, 2024 • 4 min. read
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with pet parent

Diagnosis:  Foreign obstruction/Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
Cost: $21,745 Healthy Paws reimbursed: $17,050
Coverage options: 80 percent reimbursement | $500 deductible

Dash is a four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed known for their merry and gay personality, says his pet parent Lynne, and everyone says Dash is the sweetest dog they have ever met.

At the vet clinic, the staff called him a “cage diver” because he loves people so much. Lynne said he’d dive into their arms when they opened his cage door. 

“Dash is also foolishly brave. He’s always trying to dive off the cliffs at our house on the coast!” Lynne said.  

While Dash comes from a line of champions– his father was an Australian Grand Champion, and other relatives have won titles, he washed out of the show circuit as a puppy because he suffered motion sickness.

Dash loses his appetite

Last fall, Dash started acting lethargic and sick – he lost his appetite and was regurgitating. Initially, their veterinarian in Maine thought it was a food allergy and suggested some heartburn medication and hypoallergenic canned food.

The food and medication didn’t help, and Dash only got worse. Since their rural community lacked any specialty vets, they traveled to Providence, RI, to find a larger practice.

Dash’s worsening symptoms seemed to point to pancreatitis, and Lynne insisted that he be tested for it, which came back positive. They also performed an ultrasound that showed a “shadow” at the base of his stomach. The vets gave him pain medication and IV fluids, then sent him home. 

That night, which happened to be New Year’s Eve, Dash worsened rapidly, with severe vomiting and pain. He sat in the “prayer position” with paws and chest on the floor and butt elevated, which is a sign of severe illness in dogs, Lynne said. 

They rushed him to an emergency vet. While waiting, he lost consciousness and went into shock with no discernable blood pressure.

“He was moments from death, and only the quick action of a smart vet tech brought him to the attention of an emergency specialist,” Lynne said. “I learned that you should not hesitate to take your dog (or cat) to an emergency vet if your gut tells you something is badly wrong. If we had waited even 30 minutes, our beloved Dash would be dead.” 

The vets gave Dash fluids and plasma to restore blood volume and pressure, countless medications, and an additional ultrasound, which showed something blocking his duodenum (where the stomach connects to the small intestine). But what could it be?

“I recalled Dash’s fixation on snatching acorns from the forest floor in Maine. But we had been back in Providence for two months. It couldn’t be an acorn. Could it?” Lynne said. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in hospital
Dash in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Protect your pet

Surgery is successful, but another problem emerges

The blockage was an acorn. An internal medicine specialist was able to extract it via an endoscopy, a procedure using a camera, and a flexible tool to diagnose stomach issues or identify an obstruction. The tube is inserted through the stomach or rectum and can be used to retrieve an object.

While the surgery was successful, there was more trouble. The vet specialist determined that Dash had underlying Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) caused by allergies to the protein in his food. IBD prevents animals from absorbing enough protein and other nutrients, so they sometimes develop pica — a compulsion to eat weird items (such as dirt and poop) to try to gain needed nutrition.

The vet prescribed steroids and switched to a “novel protein” (proteins the pet had not consumed before) diet. Lynne put Dash on a ‘Just Food for Dogs’ diet that supports the liver and kidney, made with codfish and other whole ingredients.

How Dash is doing now

The diet change has helped Dash feel much better. However, the steroids make him ravenous, Lynne said. Despite their vigilance, he managed to snatch a sliver of a chicken bone someone had tossed out at the park. 

Cute Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Once again, they were back at the emergency vet. Thankfully, the bone passed without harm and Dash is now on the mend.

“He’s full of energy, has regained lost weight, and spends his days barking at squirrels rather than collapsed on the couch,” Lynne said.  

Lynne was surprised to learn her pup’s diet was causing some of his health problems.

“Diet does matter. If your dog seems to be unwell, spend time with your vet to get to the bottom of your pet’s problem. Could it be allergies? Would switching their diet help?” she said. 

How pet insurance helped

Lynne said she was advised to get pet insurance when she adopted her Cavalier, as they are known to develop genetic health issues such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation (loose kneecaps). They also tend to escape and run. While Dash is a healthy cavalier, they didn’t account for him swallowing something dangerous. She’s glad she was prepared for the unexpected. 

“Be sure you have excellent pet insurance like Healthy Paws. Emergency vet care is expensive, so it’s worth the investment in the best possible pet insurance. Our beloved fur babies are worth it!,” Lynne said. 

Lynne said she also learned how important it is to strongly advocate for your pet. If she hadn’t done so, she would have lost Dash.

“Some vets address the most obvious problem at hand. They write a prescription and hustle the patient out the door. Don’t be fobbed off if a treatment isn’t working. Insist on tests that will yield actionable answers,” she said.

The claim scenarios described here are intended to show the types of situations that may result in claims. These scenarios should not be compared to any other claim. Whether or to what extent a particular loss is covered depends on the facts and circumstances of the loss, the terms and conditions of the policy as issued, and applicable law.

Insured persons providing testimonials in this report have not received compensation for their statements.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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