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Fishing with Your Dog

By: PetPlace Veterinarians

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Spring slowly turns into summer, bringing longer days and warm weather. During this time of year, you may want to grab your fishing gear and head for the peace and tranquility of nearby lakes or rivers. Frequently, you may want to take your pet with you, but unfortunately, fishing and pets don't always go hand in hand. If you like the company of your pet, take care to keep him safe, especially around the fishhooks. Fishhooks can be ingested, embedded in the lips and the face, as well as the legs and paws.

There are two main types of fishhooks, the treble hook and single hook. Treble hooks have three hooks attached together, while a single hook is just what the name implies; just one hook. To entice the fish, the hook is adorned with bait. However, this bait may also entice your pet, and hot dogs, worms and even stink bait are quite tasty to dogs and cats. Commercial lures also turn a fishhook into tempting playthings as they fly through the air or flicker through the water.

Signs

Usually you will see immediate signs that your pet has either ingested a fishhook or has one stuck in his skin. You might notice the following:

  • Fishhook protruding from the skin or fishing line protruding from the mouth or anus

  • Loss of appetite, painful mouth or excessive drooling

    What You Should Do

    If your pet has ingested a fishhook, transport him to your veterinarian immediately. Removing fishhooks can be risky, especially if stuck in the intestinal tract. DO NOT pull the fishing line in an attempt to pull the hook out of the throat. Just as in a fish, the hook will grab onto a piece of the stomach or esophagus and becoming imbedded, making surgery the only option for treatment.

    If the hook is embedded in the skin outside the body (and not in the mouth), some pets may allow you to remove it. Try the following:

  • Push the hook through the exit wound until the barb is visible, and remove the barb with a wire cutter. Pull the hook out backwards, the same way it went in.

  • Place a clean dressing on the wound.

  • Take your pet to your veterinarian.

    Veterinary Care

    Diagnosis

    Fishhooks stuck in the skin can be seen readily without any tests. However, fishhooks that have been ingested require additional diagnostics.

    Your veterinarian will most likely take an x-ray of your pet to help determine the location of the hook and help decide on the best way to remove the hook. Because hooks are made of metal, they are readily visible on radiographs (x-rays).

    Treatment

    Depending on the tolerance of the pet, placement of the hook and type of hook, sedation may be required, since removal of the hook can be painful.

  • Hooks stuck in the skin, paw, lip or face: Most fishhooks have a barb at the tip, and cannot be removed by simply pulling it in the reverse direction. The hook must be driven through the skin until the barb is exposed on the other side. With single hooks, the eye of the hook may need to be removed with a wire cutting pliers or scissors, and then the tip is driven through the skin until the barb is exposed. At this point, the tip of the hook, including the barb, can be removed with the wire cutters and the rest of the hook backed out. Or, the rest of the hook can be pulled through until the hook is removed.

    Treble hooks: A treble hook has three separate hooks attached together. Initially, any hooks that are not embedded are cut off. Then, each hook embedded in the skin is removed as with single hooks. Treble hook removal is more likely to require sedation since it requires more time and effort than single hooks.

  • Hooks stuck in the gastrointestinal tract: (esophagus, stomach, and intestines): Removal of hooks in the gastrointestinal tract requires more extensive treatment. Fishhooks located in the esophagus and stomach can be removed by using an endoscope or may require surgery. The most difficult hook to remove is one lodged in the esophagus as a result of pulling on the fishing line in an attempt to remove it. Fishhooks can also be found in the intestinal tract. In some situations, surgery is not performed immediately; the hook may even pass on its own. However, if your pet begins vomiting, not eating or seems to have abdominal pain, immediate surgery is recommended.

    Home Care

    If your pet ingests a fishhook that is attached to a fishing line, DO NOT pull on the fishing line. Let the dog swallow the hook, then take your pet to the veterinarian. Gently hold the line to keep your pet from ingesting it. You can try tying the line to the collar unless your pet continues to chew.

    You can try to remove the hook at home if it is stuck in the skin (as illustrated above). If your pet is not cooperative, do not force restraint. Have your veterinarian remove the hook.

    Preventative Care

    Keep all fishing equipment safely stored away. Do not allow your pet free access to hooks and bait. Be very careful when walking your pet around lakes or ponds where fishing is allowed.

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