Trickster’s Tennis Ball Trials


Trickster, a gorgeous three year old rescue dog from Bosnia who’s dedicated owners have had her since she was a 6-month old puppy and have worked through illness, accident and behavioural problems, has made the news because of her love of tennis balls!

Trickster was already under the care of Vera Pisco one of our Neurology Residents for SMRA when she decided to visit the other departments! Steroid responsive meningitis-arteritis (SRMA) is an auto-immune condition where inflammation occurs in the blood vessels in the lining of the nervous system. Trickster is on daily medication for this, but it is now under control with minimal symptoms.

Trickster is a playful and lovely natured dog who is very protective of the humans she loves and needs to invite you into her home. However she also loves to swallow tennis balls! Her owners have to be very careful on a walk and when they visit other people’s homes!

The first time Trickster swallowed a tennis ball she was taken to an emergency vet, who gave her medication to make her sick in the hope she could bring it back up – but when this didn’t work, she was referred to us, where a challenging minimally invasive endoscopy procedure with our Internal Medicine team was performed to retrieve it.

This involved passing a telescopic camera down her food pipe (oesophagus) and into her stomach where the tennis ball, which was split open down the middle, could be grasped and removed via her mouth.

When Trickster swallowed a tennis ball a second time, it was not possible to remove it in the same way because it remained in one piece and could not be easily grasped as it sat in her stomach. Instead, Trickster needed to have an operation by our specialist Soft Tissue surgeons.

The surgeons had to open up Trickster’s abdomen and then manipulate her stomach to push the ball into the teeth of forceps to allow it to be retrieved. This procedure was a rarely-performed procedure and avoided surgically opening her stomach lining itself leading to a quicker recovery and it was a complete success.

Her owner said, “When she was younger, we noticed that Trickster would take tennis balls, run away and hide with them, so we started training her to drop them. Nearly all the times that Trickster picks up a ball, she will drop it – but on two occasions, she’s thought ‘I’m not going to drop it, I’m going to keep it’.

“We cannot confirm it’s due to the medication that she’s on making her feel hungry, as she’s now on a very low dose, with the hope she will be able to come off it altogether, as she’s not had any relapses for a couple of years. However, since the operation, we’ve kept a muzzle on while she’s off the lead!”

Her lovely owners have been through a real trial for their first dog but they wouldn’t have her any other way.