Dogs, and cats for that matter, eat all kinds of weird things. Some eat foods, some eat toys, some eat poop (ew!)…the list goes on and on. Being a veterinarian, we get to see some really intresting cases of weird things eaten. In my post Pet Poison Hotline I mentioned what happens when pets eat toxins but what about when a dog eats inanimate objects? Toys? Strings? Bones? This condition is known as dietary indescretion.
When your pet eats an inanimate object only three things can happen:
- Nothing – it passes. You may or may not see it pass as a present in the yard. If you don’t find it eventually you begin to wonder if he ever actually ate it. OR, you consider the possibility that it may still be inside.
- She makes a mess – by vomiting it back up, along with the rest of the contents of the stomach. Then, to make matters worse, diarrhea develops too.
- Bad news bears – it gets stuck. This also can cause vomiting or diarrhea or worse if not dealt with in a timely manner.
Our physical examination and diagnostics like blood work and x-rays can help us determine if something is stuck. Sometimes on x-ray you can see a stuck object. Other times, you see large dilated airfilled intestines and stomach as gas backs up from the obstruction.
Check out the following x-ray for a dog presenting for vomiting and diarrhea with straining. He has a history of getting into the trash can and did so a few days ago before all this started. Do you see anything?
Do you known what his diagnosis is? It’s a foreign body…in the stomach. If you don’t see it, the following reproduction of the image with overlays points out the foreign body/bodies (green circle) in the stomach and a small amount of gas (blue arrow) in the intestine. In this case, the gas amount is normal, it’s just the foreign body that showed up on x-rays that is abnormal.
Okay, hopefully you see it now. Now the fun part comes…what is it? This pup had surgery and we pulled the foreign body out of his stomach. When we went in, we were thinking we would be retrieving some rib-bones that had been in the trash can and were still stuck together. However, this was not the case, and I should have known seeing as these two things look so identical in shape and length. Do you know what it is yet?
Pacifiers! Crazy right? Surgery went well and he recovered uneventfully. The owners, when shown what was collected from his stomach were astounded. Apparently, these pacifiers were missing for a full week!
It can sometimes be fun to try to guess what may be the culprit of an obstruction. However, it is much more fun to see you smiling and not worrying over your pet as they undergo surgery to relieve an obstruction. Be mindful of what your pet’s habits are. Some pets will eat these things, others could care less. Learn to know your pet and what objects or foods need to be kept away…this way, I won’t have to open up their gi tract to find out just what mystery dinner Fido had a few days ago.