They came. They chewed. They swallowed.
Dogs and cats can be some of the most brilliant creatures on the planet. At times there seems to be no limit to what they are capable of being trained to do. But sometimes they will do things for no good reason that leave us scratching our heads. The top of this weird list are the bizarre things that pets will decide to chew up and swallow. I’ve been in the veterinary business for 34 years now and every time I think I have seen the pinnacle of what an animal will chew up and/or swallow, another comes along that moves the needle a little bit farther.
When to see a vet about possible obstruction
I’ve heard many pet owners describe their pets as having “iron stomachs” – as if nothing they eat can harm them. Other pet owners seem to deal with vomiting and bowel distress regularly. Regardless of what you think your pet can (or cannot) handle, it’s important to take note of the symptoms that indicate your pet may have an abdominal or intestinal obstruction.
While vomiting may not seem like too much of an issue, a pet who seems to be vomiting a lot or with great force should certainly be brought into the veterinary clinic. Most of the time, vomiting isn’t anything serious. It’s what dogs, cats and kids do. Vomiting (even a lot) is a way of their bodies trying to fix earlier mistakes. That said, due to the nature of the beast (a nature that draws them to occasionally consume bizarre objects), we vets always have to rule out possible ingested foreign bodies and intestinal obstruction – because all animals (yes, ALL) eat and swallow things they aren’t supposed to.
Other symptoms that should lead you to suspect obstruction include: lethargy; difficulty with defecating or inability to defecate; dark, sticky stools; burping; disinterest in eating or inability to eat; refusal to lie down; and/or a swollen, bloated abdomen. If you notice a few of these symptoms, bring your pet to the veterinary clinic right away.
The strangest things I’ve removed from pets
Over the years I’ve taken some pretty interesting things out of critters. Socks, especially baby socks, are a common source of GI upset and obstruction. Pillows, towels, blankets and bedding are probably ahead of socks on the most common list (but not by much). Bones are another common issue, though most of the time that’s the pet owner’s fault for giving it to them to begin with. For most of these patients, we know they are obstructed, but we don’t know by what until surgery. Every now and then on the operating table, we’ll see something that makes us scratch and shake our head.
Some of the more off-the-wall items I have removed from pets include: rocks, corn cobs (pulled 18 out of a chocolate lab’s stomach once), coins, sewing needles, yarn, whole baseballs, golf balls, an entire 42-inch braided leather belt, and too numerous to count feminine hygiene products. There’s no pattern or characteristic that seems to make certain things suitable for swallowing and others not. I wish I knew what drives animals to eat some of the things they do.
All dogs and cats are capable of swallowing things. Even the ones who would never and have never swallowed strange things someday will. Be cognizant of what your pets like to chew, and know that someday they may think it’s a great idea to try to get it down! In short: watch your pets, keep their favorite non-food items out of reach, and never hesitate to visit the vet if you think something bad went down.