As a veterinary technician with nearly 12 years of experience under my belt, I’ve heard all sorts of interesting and unusual things from my clients. Not much shocks me after all this time. Which is good, considering some of the things dogs and cats are inclined to eat. Some of my favorite cases involve unusual ingestions by the housepets. Cats and dogs eat all sorts of strange things. We all know any dog would have trouble NOT getting into the trash can where all the delicious things hide; the last bite of your sandwich, the piece of cheese you dropped on the floor, the fast food wrappers that smell oh so delicious.
Then there are the things that we, as veterinary staff, look at the pet and think “What on earth were you thinking when you ate that?”. Cats LOVE to eat rubber bands (hair bands, regular rubber bands, whatever). Tinsel during the holidays, shoelaces, random pieces of string (sometimes with a sewing needle attached!), they’re not picky, as long as it’s not meant to be eaten. Dogs will eat all sorts of silly things. Things we will never understand the appeal of. Socks, rocks, paper, tubes of chapstick. Gross things from the bathroom trash can, underwear, and even a diamond ring. My best friend’s dog ate half a deck of playing cards just last week! Some of these strange ingestions are relatively harmless. You’ll find bits of paper towels as you’re cleaning up your yard, or the crayons that your son lost to Sparky’s destruction on Tuesday. Veterinary Practice News released an article last fall with a collection of strange foreign body ingestions. You can see it here.
There are many things that are life-threatening and will require veterinary intervention. Regardless of WHAT your pet ingested, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian. Odds are good that it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Even if your dog ate your “roommate’s stash” (more on this topic in a later blog), it’s very important to tell your vet everything you know about what your pet got into. You may hold a piece of information that is key to saving your pet’s life.
There are ingestions that are toxic: rat poison, prescription medications, even some types of chewing gum. Treatment for these ingestions can vary from inducing vomiting and administering charcoal (equivalent to having your stomach pumped as a human), to days or weeks of hospitalization with fluids and IV medications. Many of these toxic ingestions require a call to the ASPCA’s animal poison contol center. Gather as much information about the product your pet ingested as possible (including whatever is left of the container), and contact your vet immediately.
Then we have the ingestions that may be life-threatening: plastic bags, rocks, coins, items of clothing. Again, the treatment for each ingestion is different. Treatment can range from inducing vomiting to produce the offending item to exploratory surgery to remove it. If not removed, many foreign bodies CAN be fatal. A gastric foreign body can lodge itself in your pet’s intestines, creating a dam of sorts. Not allowing food or waste to pass as normal, creating a build-up of toxins in your pet’s system. A doctor that I work with surgically removed an entire stuffed toy (in one piece!) from the stomach of a dog last summer (seen below).
If your pet is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, or a combination of the two, this could be an indication of something more serious than just a stomach bug. The bottom line is this: Pets will eat weird things with no logical explanation. ALWAYS contact your veterinarian to determine what the best course of treatment is for your pet. We are always happy to have a look at Fluffy, and make sure she’s safe and healthy. Better safe than sorry, right?