Pet owners are being warned ahead of barbecue season after a puppy nearly died after swallowing a kebab stick and having it inside her for two months.

The skewer narrowly avoided damaging 10-month-old Bear’s major organs and was only discovered when she started limping after it passed all the way through to her leg.

She needed an urgent operation at Abington Park Veterinary Surgery in Northampton to carefully remove the four-inch-long stick.

German Shepherd Bear has made a full recovery. But while the length of time was exceptional, the team at Abington Park, part of My Family Vets network of UK clinics say they face a worrying number of such incidents.

And, with a boom in post-lockdown barbecues expected as outdoor gathering restrictions ease amidst sunnier spring weather, they are appealing to owners to take extra care and seek urgent help if they suspect a stick has been swallowed.

Owner Richard Davidson was aware of the dangers after the family’s other dog, Labrador Keats, needed surgery having gulped down a corn on the cob on a stick from the kitchen a couple of years back.

But they reckon hungry Bear must have snatched the stick unnoticed from a back garden barbie.

“Dogs are so crafty when it comes to food and they are just so quick,” said Richard, who lives near Kettering. “Because we already have a dog that will eat anything, we always try to be as careful as possible.

“In this instance we didn’t even see her take it and don’t know if she sneaked it off someone’s plate. So, we didn’t realise that there was any problem at all.

“Months later she started to limp and then that gradually got worse. It became so bad that she wouldn’t walk on her back leg and we took her to the vets.”

Richard initially took Bear to their own surgery, Vets4Pets, where an X-ray found no indication of a fracture but did suspect an obstruction. Realising she needed specific attention, she was referred to the expertise of the team at Abington Park.

“As soon as Bear came in and I did an ultrasound scan I could see the foreign body,” said vet Riccardo Minelli. “Although the leg was massively swollen, I had still been expecting something like a grass seed, not anything as big as the kebab stick.

“There was no wound or entry point, so it was hard to imagine how something like that had got in.

“The imaging showed that it was very close to large abdominal vessels and the femoral artery. I realised that surgery was required as there was a risk of haemorrhage if we tried to remove it non-invasively.”

Dr Jamie McClement headed the team who carried out the delicate operation to remove the kebab stick.

Owner Richard was stunned at the news of the find, but delighted Bear came through the surgery well.

“We would never have thought that a kebab stick could possibly have been the cause of her limp,” said Richard. “She seemed to be eating fine and there were no other signs of anything wrong.

“It was such a surprise when we were told what was responsible and we are just grateful that it missed vital organs and passed through the intestine without causing serious damage.

“We know it could have been fatal and we were very lucky. We’ve become even more careful and even have doggie guards at the kitchen door now to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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“Obviously we didn’t see it happen this time, but if you do see your dog get hold of one of these things, get them to a vet just as quickly as possible.”

And Riccardo warns that it is a very real danger for pet owners as they look to enjoy the outdoors again after tough coronavirus restrictions.

“We frequently see swallowed kebab sticks,” said Riccardo. “It is normally stuck in the mouth, the oesophagus or the stomach. But if they do get to the intestine, the animal tends to be unwell quickly, which wasn’t what happened in this case which was very unusual.

“With more people at home at the moment and perhaps having barbecues, there is definitely an increased risk. We’d ask people to be especially vigilant if they have dogs around and to contact their vet right away if they see their pet get hold of one of these things.

“The sooner they get the animal to us the better as we can usually retrieve it without surgery."