SOMETIMES it is obvious something fishy is going down.

Take last Sunday, for example.

An owner phones because their lively dog is gagging after he has been out for a walk.

He is bright and cheery but stops to choke frequently. We wonder about kennel cough, which produces a horrible retch, as if something was stuck in the throat. Or maybe the dog had run open mouthed onto a stick and has a classic penetrating injury at the back of the throat.

Both theories, though not completely daft, turned out to be nonsense.

The patient was duly examined and it was quickly obvious he was struggling to swallow. Given these circumstances, it is very useful to actually be able to open the dog’s mouth without losing fingers or requiring sedation. (For the patient that is, not the vet!). Worthwhile tip for new puppy owners: Practice opening your pup’s mouth on a daily basis!

In this case, close inspection revealed the presence of a thin wire at the back of the throat. Ever inquisitive, our intrepid veterinary surgeon gave the end of this a tentative tug but nothing happened. And the wire would not budge.

Further discussion with the owner revealed that he had been walking a river bank that afternoon and the penny dropped.

Lightly sedated now, our patient was X-rayed and all became clear. There was a lovely pair of fish hooks in the stomach with about 18 inches of wire attached! For very young people, this is about 45.72cm.

It is not uncommon for dogs to be hooked as fishermen cast. Classically, the dog is sitting on the bank beside his master, minding his own business and dreaming of bones or how wonderful his vet is, when a stray cast (or the wind) means the poor animal is caught.

Generally, although painful and troublesome, the hook can be removed by pushing it through the tissue, cutting off the barb and then pulling the remaining hook back. Tip for anyone affected: Do not try and pull a barbed hook out, it just won’t happen.

Sometimes, but rarely, dogs will be hooked in the mouth as they take a speculative grab at a passing fly or bit of bait. Again, though often anaesthesia is required, the hook can be simply removed in similar fashion.

It is most unusual, however, for dogs to swallow hooks. I mean, why would they? Disaster can occur if hooks get snagged in the oesophagus. Any damage done here can be catastrophic and the hooks are devilishly difficult to remove, even with the help of the best endoscope.

Luckily, for our patient, they had made their way safely to the stomach and he was prepped for exploratory surgery and gastrotomy to remove them.

During the procedure, the cause became clear. The hooks were removed, along with a large, attached fish! The patient is recovering well. Unfortunately, the fish did not make it…