Lola Bear is a big, strong 140-pound Newfoundland, but she was no match for the strength of Gorilla Glue.
The docile 22-month-old dog with big brown eyes is recovering from emergency surgery that was required after she snacked on about a third of a bottle of the glue, which uses the slogan "For the toughest jobs on planet Earth."
The glue expands dramatically when it comes into contact with moisture, creating a solid mass with the consistency of plastic foam inside the stomach, which is what happened to Lola Bear about six days after she devoured the glue.
"I had never seen a case before," said veterinarian Dick Sullivan, who has worked at Torrance's Bay Cities Animal Hospital for 33 years.
"We had heard of the problem, but couldn't believe it was the size it was," he added. "This was a 140-pound dog and the stomach was fully distended with this mass. It was the size of a small basketball....I had heard of it, but I don't know how much I really believed it."
He does now.
Lola Bear's owner, Vicki Troxel of Torrance, was unaware of the glue's appeal to dogs when she used it Dec. 14 to repair Lola Bear's kennel. In the middle of the job, she briefly left to answer the telephone.
"I came back and she had the (glue bottle) in her paws, (and was) chewing through the plastic bottle," Troxel said.
She called a Gorilla Glue toll-free number, learned of the problem and immediately rushed Lola Bear to an emergency pet clinic.
Trouble is, it takes time for the glue to congeal into a solid mass.
Nothing showed up on X-rays, so Troxel returned home with orders to watch Lola Bear, keep her off solid food and not give her water.
Lola Bear was relatively quiet for the next few days, although that's nothing new for a pet Troxel refers to as a "gentle giant."
So placid is the benign canine, she's popular among the autistic and other special- needs children served by the Torrance nonprofit group Pediatric Therapy Network, where Troxel's boyfriend, Andy Arvidson, volunteers.
But last Friday, Troxel gave Lola Bear her first meal of solid food since the incident, which she immediately threw up.
Troxel rushed the dog to Bay Cities Animal Hospital, where this time what Sullivan described as a "lightweight amorphous glob" did show up on an X-ray. Lola Bear was promptly whisked into emergency surgery, where it took Sullivan two hours to literally break the strong bond between the Gorilla Glue and the Newfoundland.
"The problem was this material would break off and drop into the abdomen and then it would stick to other tissues almost like, well, glue," he said. "The surgery part was easy. The difficult part and time-consuming part was cleaning out the abdomen."
It turns out the problem is well-known in the medical community, and a Google search shows plenty of dogs getting themselves into perilously sticky situations with the stuff.
Gorilla Glue even mentions it rather defensively on its Web site, noting that "Gorilla Glue is a polyurethane glue. All polyurethane glues foam when they come in contact with moisture and may cause gastrointestinal blockage if swallowed. This is not unique to Gorilla Glue, but true of all polyurethane glues."
Company officials did not return a message that was left seeking comment.
Still, the serious health implications of swallowing Gorilla Glue was news to Troxel and Arvidson, who said they wouldn't have thought about it in their "wildest dreams."
"The stomach can burst as the Gorilla Glue keeps expanding," Arvidson said. "It keeps growing inside of you."
About 20 metal staples in the stomach later, Lola Bear is home and recuperating.
And Troxel, and Sullivan. are a little wiser about a previously unknown household threat.
"(The glue) apparently has a pleasant taste to it," Sullivan said. "I understand that pediatricians have the same problem.
"It's a very good product, a widely used product, but I would definitely put it out of the reach of children and pets," he added. "Dogs don't go after something unless it tastes good."