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What to do if Your Dog Eats a Toy (or Other Inedible Object)
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What to do if Your Dog Eats a Toy (or Other Inedible Object)

Dogs
Health & Safety

No dog owner is a stranger to the dread that comes with realising Fido has eaten something naughty. Perhaps it will be the telltale look of shame, or a nice long roll of loo-paper dragged about the house that will tip you off. Maybe you’ll come home and find that your precious pooch’s favourite toy has been ripped to shreds, with the likely culprit sitting in the corner looking more than sorry for himself. It goes without saying that at some point in his life, your dog will eat items that could prove hazardous to his health. The question is: what should you do about it? Read this article before you are faced with this frightening question – knowing what to do could help you save your pet’s life.

What to do after your pet swallows a toy

Odds are you won’t see your dog eat a toy right in front of you, but if you happen to notice one is missing or see the carnage of an excessive chew session, take note of the details. Was the M.I.A. object made of plastic or hard in texture? Could it have had a jagged edge? Is the entire toy missing or only part of it? Call your vet for immediate advice, and to let them know what you suspect your pet has eaten. If the item was toxic or imminently dangerous they may ask you to bring him in for an in-person check or treatment to help the object pass. Though not the most appealing idea it may be wise to check your dog’s stool to be 100% sure that the object has passed through safely.We all know that dogs are drawn to chewing inedible objects like moths to a flame. Much of the time, these items will pass the through the system with few problems, possibly causing some irregular bowel movements or a little discomfort on the way out. In the worst-case scenario, your dog may eat something that becomes lodged somewhere in his gastrointestinal tract, causing what’s known as a blockage or obstruction. The blockage may be full or partial – either way, you’re pet will need veterinary attention.

Signs your pet is experiencing a blockage

It can sometimes take a few days for a blockage to cause severe symptoms. Depending on where the foreign body (or cause of the blockage) is lodged, you may notice slightly different signs. Your vet will be able to pinpoint the exact location of the foreign body, but its important for you to know the early indications of a blockage. They include:

  • Vomiting, especially if continuous
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • No desire for food

More urgent signs include those above, and:

  • Bloated, painful belly
  • Fever
  • Pale or very light mucous membranes
  • Weak pulse
  • Extreme behavioural changes
  • Inability to pass faeces, or only passing small amounts of loose stool

Fluid, gasses and discomfort will only continue to build in the event of an obstruction, eventually leading to shock, collapse and death. In some cases, foreign bodies like toys can cause a condition called intestinal strangulation, in which parts of the gut are cut off from oxygen and begin to die.

Treatment of blockages

As you can see blockages are extremely serious and may require drastic treatments. Once you have determined that something is amiss, you should get to your nearest veterinary surgery straight away. If possible, call in advance so the vet and his team will be ready for your arrival. Again, let the vet know if you have suspicions as to what your dog has eaten, and be prepared to detail when the symptoms began. How your vet proceeds will depend on the condition of your dog. He or she may need to need to use diagnostic imaging (X-rays, ultrasound) to locate the object in the GI tract and check the severity of the damage. An operation may follow, as the vet may need to physically remove the object from your pet’s intestines. Of course this is no small matter, and your pet may need to stay hospitalised for several days post-op, so he can be given fluids, pain relief, antibiotics and round-the-clock supervision.

Preventing intestinal blockages

Dog toys and any indigestible object can obstruct your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, but here are some of the more common causes of intestinal blockage:

  • Balls, especially tennis balls in larger breeds
  • Inappropriately sized chews
  • Chicken bones
  • Socks or underwear
  • Loose change
  • Stones

Try as you might to keep all of these objects away from your pets, their natural instinct encourages them to explore new things with their mouths. Swallowing inedible items sometimes occurs accidentally as a result of chewing, and so young dogs are especially prone to blockages. The best thing you can do as a responsible owner is be vigilant to potential hazards, and encourage your pet to chew on appropriately sized, durable materials as much as possible. Think carefully when choosing toys for your pet: make sure they are not too small, and that they will not splinter or tear easily.You can also stop your dog from eating inappropriate objects by keeping him in a safe, confined area when you cannot supervise him. This may mean closing bedroom and bathroom doors, restricting your dog to a single room, or placing him in a crate with a safe food puzzle or other diversion. Keep rubbish well out of sight, especially if chicken or steak were on the menu the night before. When you go out for walks, try to avoid letting your dog out of sight; it’s ok to let him play off the lead but make sure you’re able to see exactly what he’s up to – otherwise he could covertly nab an inappropriate plaything.You can’t always control your dog’s actions, but taking precautions to stop him from swallowing inappropriate objects will help you keep both stress and vet visits to a minimum!

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