Cat needs emergency surgery after huge blade of grass becomes wedged in throat

When Elaine and Neil Tomlinson noticed their rescue cat Willow suddenly developed breathing problems, they were worried.

After an online video consultation with vets at Vets Now, she was rushed to the pet emergency service’s out-of-hours clinic in Sheffield.

The video clip they sent to vet Orla Marron showed that something Willow had eaten was stuck in her stomach or nose.

Orla was able to see and hear for herself how bad Willow’s cough was during the online consultation.

Even after x-rays were done, it was still not clear where or what was causing the problem until eagle-eyed Dave spotted a tiny speck of green almost invisible to the eye at the top of Willow’s throat.

Carefully and delicately, and with Willow now sedated, he used a surgical instrument to prise the dot of green forward. To his surprise, Dave discovered it was a blade of grass measuring 20cm.

Luckily, once the blade was removed and Willow came round from the sedation, she was well enough to go home.

Neil, from Hillsborough, Sheffield said: ‘We adopted Willow, her brother Barney and her sister Mabel from Barnsley Animal Rescue.

‘They’re all part of our daily life and it would have been awful if we couldn’t have got Willow treated. The cough she had was really upsetting to see and hear and you could tell straight away that something was quite badly wrong.

‘She was pretty much back to her normal self the day after she got home and we’re very grateful to Dave and the rest of the Vets Now team for all their help.’

It’s been a busy month for the couple as Willow’s sister Mabel disappeared a few months ago.

Neil added: ‘It turned out she’d got into our neighbour’s house and then got stuck in one of his cupboards. So we’re hoping for no more drama for quite a while!’

Neil said that the video consultation, launched for pet owners during the coronavirus crisis, was particularly useful to get advice about whether Willow needed to be seen in person.

If a pet needs to be seen at one of Vets Now clinics or hospitals, pet owners such as Neil and Elaine are refunded the £24 consultation fee.

Dave said: ‘I’ve been very involved in getting the Video Vet service up and running and I’m delighted we were able to put it to such good use to help Willow.

‘Video Vet gives us a whole new way of looking after pets – it’s about applying all the technology we now have at our disposal and updating the traditional vet consultation.

‘The footage Willow’s owners sent in prior to the online consultation was particularly helpful in reaching a diagnosis. We were able to provide a seamless, coordinated response between the Video Vet service and our clinic team, which really demonstrates the value of the Video Vet service to worried pet owners.’

Dave added: ‘In Willow’s case, at this time of year, cats like to have a good chew of grass – and it tastes a lot lusher to them than it would in winter.

‘She literally bit off more than she could chew, and as she gagged we think the grass blade has got caught in the back of the throat and then ended up wedged behind the soft palate.

‘It was quite barbed and took a fair bit of teasing out — I felt like a magician pulling out a string of handkerchiefs! Willow’s breathing was severely affected and would have become worse if Elaine and Neil hadn’t sought help when they did.’