Spike swallowed a sewing needle!

Spike is a 4-month old domestic shorthair cat who came to the Hallam AEC after his owners had witnessed him vomiting some cotton thread. His owners were uncertain when he may have eaten the thread, but commented that it was possible that a sewing needle may have been attached to the thread prior to ingestion. Two days before he had been to his local veterinarian for suspected neck pain after playing roughly with the family puppy and was treated with an anti-inflammatory.

On physical examination at the AEC, Spike was alert and wriggly. His vital parameters were normal. He did, however, resent examination of his neck. His mouth and the back of his throat were examined but no thread or needle was observed. Due to the possibility of him swallowing a sewing needle, Spike was admitted for x-rays. X-rays of Spike’s chest and neck showed that he had indeed swallowed a sewing needle and it was located just behind his larynx (voice box) in his neck.

Spike was anaesthetised and an endoscope was used to examine his oesophagus, stomach and airway. After searching for a long time, the needle had still not been found. Spike was again x-rayed in multiple different positions, which showed the needle had pushed through the soft tissues of the oesophagus and had penetrated the muscles of his neck.

An exploratory surgical procedure was required to remove the needle from the muscles of Spike’s neck. He recovered well from the procedure and the neck pain originally noted resolved quickly. Spike was discharged the next morning with antibiotic tablets, anti-inflammatory tablets and a great specimen jar for show and tell!

Sewing needles and thread present a common problem for inquisitive cats as they enjoy playing with them. They commonly chew on the thread and swallow it; the needle following the course of the thread. Once swallowed, the needle can penetrate through any part of the intestinal system, causing life-threatening perforations as it passes. Another complication that can occur is that the cotton thread can cause the intestines to bunch up along the thread, causing an intestinal obstruction and potentially more serious problems requiring partial bowel resection.

If sewing, be mindful to clean up any left-over threads and do not leave needles attached to the threads. If a piece of thread is hanging from your pet’s mouth or anus, resist the temptation to pull it as it could be very long and extend into the bowel where it could cut through the bowel if pulled. If you suspect your pet has swallowed thread or a needle, immediately contact your veterinarian or your local Animal Emergency Centre for advice.

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