Former police dog receives life-saving surgery


Thor, a 13-year-old Dutch shepherd and former police narcotics dog, swallowed 2 hazardous items

Thor with Veterinary Teaching Hospital staff.

Thor with Veterinary Teaching Hospital staff.

Owner of Thor, Chris Sparks, reported that his dog threw up several times on December 10, 2022, and then seemingly returned to normal for a few days. However, Thor then threw up again on December 13 and 14 and by the morning of Decemeber 15, was mostly vomiting bile, so Sparks took him to a veterinary clinic.

“The vet said his pancreas readings were off the charts,” Sparks said in a news release from Virginia Tech.1 Thor was then treated for pancreatitis.

That seemed to work for a while, but by December 18, Thor was back to vomiting and refusing all food and medicine. “I called my vet’s office but they were closed for the holiday,” Sparks said. “So I spoke with one of the vet techs. I told her there was a sulfur smell when Thor threw up. When I told her that, she said take him immediately to Virginia Tech.”

Thor, a 13-year-old Dutch shepherd and former police narcotics dog

Thor, a 13-year-old Dutch shepherd and former police narcotics dog

According to the release, the combined efforts of more than 20 personnel at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, within the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, helped save Thor from 2 foreign objects: a Christmas elf plush toy and a Kong brand plush teddy bear.

Because the items in Thor’s digestive tract were not metallic, x-rays at the veterinary clinic did not identify them. But an ultrasound, performed by radiology resident Michael Ciepluch at the teaching hospital, was able to detect the items in Thor’s stomach and upper intestines.

“There was a chance that we could get it with an endoscope and not actually have to do surgery,” said Blake Andrews, an intern in small animal clinical sciences who was on duty when Thor was brought in.1

Timothy Bolton, clinical assistant professor of animal internal medicine, gingerly placed the endoscope into Thor’s esophagus and stomach, getting hold of one item with it and pulling it back out through the dog’s mouth.

“We were able to remove one of the two foreign bodies with the endoscope,” Andrews said. “But the second one was not able to safely come through the esophagus with the endoscope. And, so, at that point, he was moved into an operating room and had surgery to cut into the stomach and get it that way.”1

The costs for Thor’s treatment were covered by Paws of Honor, a Williamsburg, Virginia-based nonprofit specializing in care for retired police and military dogs, and by the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Working & Service Dog Support fund.


Myatt, K. Former police dog Thor swallows hard for holidays, receives compassionate, life-saving care at Veterinary Teaching Hospital. News release. Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. January 10, 2023.

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