Never a Dull Moment!

Having graduated from veterinary school in 1982, this year marks my 30th year practicing veterinary medicine! Wow, that’s a lot of years! What feels most remarkable is that I’ve been able to work at the same profession for so long without becoming bored or complacent. I’m certain the reason is that not a single week goes by without my seeing or experiencing something new and exciting.

Take Dottie, for example. This exuberant 5-year-old spayed female Jack Russell Terrier mix was referred to me because of persistent vomiting despite treatment with a variety of medications. Little Miss Dot continued to eat well and she remained normally active, but her daily vomiting continued. Blood and urine testing were normal as were x-rays of her belly.

Physaloptera worms. Photo Credit

When I examined Dottie, had I not known better I would have thought she was a completely healthy little girl. I performed abdominal ultrasound, the results of which were normal. The next step was endoscopy in which a long telescope device was passed down her esophagus and into her stomach and upper small intestine. Lo and behold, when I entered Dot’s stomach I was greeted by a herd of little white worms! They were crawling every which way and many dove into their burrows within the lining of Dot’s stomach in response to the bright light of the endoscope. No wonder the poor girl was vomiting!

Never before thirty years of practice have I seen stomach worms, aka Physaloptera! I’ve just moved cross-country, so I assumed that I’d just encountered my first case of a disease that must be common in the Carolinas. Not so! Other than as photos in a textbooks, none of my coworkers had ever before seen Physaloptera. There was a crowd of twenty or so people crowded into the endoscopy suite in order to have a look. (I should have charged admission!)

Intestinal worms in dogs and cats are commonplace. Worms living (and burrowing) in the stomach are a rarity and I may have encountered my first and only career case of Physaloptera. These worms are transmitted via insects such as beetles, cockroaches, and crickets. Dogs who eat such critters are subject to developing stomach worms. The eggs of the worm may show up via fecal flotation (the stool sample is examined under the microscope). Veterinarians don’t commonly think of running fecals on patients with vomiting as the only symptom. I certainly won’t be skipping this test in the future! Running a simple fecal flotation is far less expensive and a whole lot easier on the patient than an endoscopic procedure.

Dot received the appropriate deworming medication and her vomiting has completely resolved. Her doting family members are thrilled with the outcome and they are going to do their best to prevent their little girl from snacking on insects in the future.

Do you encounter new and exciting things in your chosen profession? Please do tell!

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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9 Comments on “Never a Dull Moment!

  1. I can’t imagine being in a monotonous job that doesn’t make me think and learn. Maybe it’s a short attention span, but I prefer to view it as a sign of intelligence ;-). You’re definitely in a good job for a thinker, I’m sure it serves your patients well.

  2. I have one dog that likes to catch and eat grasshoppers. Could she get these worms from eating the grasshoppers?

  3. My dogs eat dirt, I assume because there are bugs and grubs in the dirt.

    I will be paying more attention to this in the future.

  4. This is some definition of “new and exciting” that I am not familiar with. 😉

    I’m more of a worms = yuk kind of a girl.

    Still I am glad that there are vets like you who will go to such lengths and be excited at the finds and cures.

  5. My profession can be described as the proverbial box of chocolates…we never know what we are going to get! In my 15 year career, I have investigated a tiger cub in an apartment…yes, it was there and yes, I did get to hold it. It was very sad to hear it cry in that desperate “I want my momma voice”. I also have seen a camel (full grown) in a neighborhood back yard in the city I work in now. I responded to a call of a large snake in a back yard..which normally turns out to be a Texas rat snake….well…this one was a 12 foot python. Needless to say, my little bitty snake tongs were useless handling that monster! Just like you, I love my profession because each day is a whole new adventure in life. I really should write a book about the adventures in animal control…while I still remember them….but who has time?

  6. I was wondering if panacure will take care of the worms in your story. I have seen a couple of my dogs eat bugs. Does that mean that any dog that eats bugs can get worms? I presantly de worm my dogs and their babies with panacure.
    Thank you

  7. Was Dottie on a heartworm preventative at the time? Ivermectin or other?

  8. This is an awesome story! Thank goodness there are vets out there looking for answers. Here’s to more of them!

  9. So what dewormer is appropriate for this type of worm?