Thursday, January 27, 2011

Your dog (cat) ate what??

Transcript from this week's episode of The Web-DVM:

Your dog (cat) ate what??

Greetings, pet lovers, this is Dr. Roger Welton, veterinarian and Veterinary News Network Reporter.

Every year, a leading veterinary trade magazine has a contest reviewing the weird things pets across the country have eaten. And, every year, thousands of veterinarians submit their x-rays to Veterinary Practice News wondering if their patient will win the grand prize honor of having swallowed the most unusual object!
Entries to this contest range from mundane objects like rocks to dangerous items including knives, needles or fish hooks. And, it’s not unusual to see more bizarre things, including diamond rings, phones and phone cords or even lightbulbs!

Thankfully, alert owners and skilled veterinarians are often able to retrieve these objects before any lasting harm is done. But, the bigger question is this: Why do our pets eat these weird things in the first place?

Some items can be obvious, for example, trash items or utensils associated with food. Other objects, such as sticks and rocks are less obvious as to why they were eaten.

Veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Valarie Tynes says that there is no easy answer to these questions. “Certainly, young dogs have a strong exploratory drive and putting things in their mouth is how they learn about the world,” says Tynes, “but dogs who repeatedly eat items like rocks or other unusual things are a different and difficult case.”

Keeping the voracious dog from eating all manner of things can be a challenge in itself as well. To keep your pet from making an emergency trip to the animal hospital, veterinarians recommend the following:

• Keep all garbage behind a secure door or cabinet.
• Use baby gates or closed doors to create “off-limits” areas for your dog.
• Monitor your dog while walking. Many pets will find irresistible treats, such as corn cobs and walnuts, while enjoying the day in the park.

Being proactive and picking up leftover food, utensils, and other items after eating can help to curb the dog’s desire as well.

What about our cats? As it turns out, they may be just as guilty as our canine friends for having an appetite for unusual objects. String-like items, such as a needle and thread, are almost irresistible to cats. Rubber bands, Christmas tinsel, bread ties or any object that can be batted around is at risk for being swallowed. And such “string foreign bodies” can be very dangerous in cats.

Remember, all of these pets underwent difficult surgeries and were likely separated from their families for a few days. In addition, the owners worried about their pets and likely suffered an unexpected financial burden. Exploratory surgeries or endoscopic procedures to remove foreign objects often cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Sadly, some pets may not survive the surgery.

The important thing to remember is that you can help prevent many of these situations by following the advice outlined above. Seek veterinary care immediately if you note your pet vomiting constantly, retching or if he has diarrhea. Waiting to see if the situation resolves itself often leads to higher veterinary bills and more distress for your pet.

This is Roger Welton reporting, for The Web-DVM.

Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:

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Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website


pw1974 said...

One of my labs a few years ago swollowed a grapefruit, WHOLE! Doctor was baffled how that thing even made it down his throat! But, it was removed and his is living happily ever after.

Ernie said...

My doberman ate by wife's lacy panties. Luckily, they came out the other end, although my wife was not much interested in wearing them after that!

I could not believe he did that! I would not have believed it had I not seen him swallow them, then see them come out two days later! Thank goodness he did not need surgery - that would have been a very unwelcoem expense just 3 days after Christmas!

Melanie said...

My dog does not eat wierd things that may get stuck, but I cannot get him to stop eating his own poop! It is the most disgusting thing I have ever witnessed! I don't even have to pick up the poop in the yard because he eats it right up...and his breath afterwards, it brings tears to my eyes it smells so bad!!! Sometimes he vomits up the poop...if you think dog poop smells bad, try partially digested dog ain't smelled nothin' yet!!!

I have reached a point where I have to watch him like a hawk, shoo him away from his poo when he goes, and pick it up immediately. But I don't always have time for that. I have three kids I have to get ready for school in the morning, and babysitting my dog's defecation is not really time well spent for me! Anyone have any suggestions???

Roger Welton, DVM said...

Try adding a dietary supplement called Forbid to his food. It is a product designed to make his poop less appealing. It doesn't always work, but I have seen it work often enough to give it a try. You can find it at most pet stores or online.

Anonymous said...

My pit mix is the poster dog for this problem as he eats everything! He is obssessed wtih mouthing and eating inanimate objects, even licks the tile floor, carpet, couch, stair railing, you name it, he licks it or eats it.

He has had 2 GI surgeries in the past 24 months, one to remove a christmas tree ornament, once to remove a wad of plastic and cloth that was so chewed up and mixed with grass and other junk, that we had no idea what it was.

The crazy thing about him is that he is 9 years old! I would have thought this would get better as he got older, but instead it seems to be worsening. Please help!

Roger Welton, DVM said...


It sounds like your dog suffers from an obssessive/compulsive tendency to eat inanimate objects, a psychological condition known as pica. We know that puppies learn the world with their mouths and are prone to this sort of thing, but you are correct that it usually resolves as they mature.

Pica, on the other hand, tends to worsen with age, which seems to fit your dog. My recommendation would be to consider discussing with your vet the possibility of treating this form of OCD with a seratonin enhancing medication, such as Prozac or amitriptylline. Both are available generically and hence are inexpensive, and both have well established safety profiles.

Good luck!

Roger Welton, DVM said...

Anonymous, I can one up you I think! My 2 1/2 year old son is in the midst of potty training. He is doing so well that he will go over to his potty and go on his own often without us knowing, then he proudly tells us he made a "poopy in the potty!" The problem is, that if we are not alerted by him quickly enough, my 10 year old mutt, Lulu, eats his poop out of the potty and licks it clean!

We are now trying to train my boy to let us know when he has to go so we can supervise and keep the dog from cleaning the potty before we do. She is so bad that when he goes over to the potty now, she follows him and stalks him, all the while wagging her tail in anticipation of the "treat" my son is going to produce for her.

It is one of the grossest things I have ever seen! Dogs can be so intelligent at times, seem so people like, but man can they be gross!

pw1974 said...

Dam, Doc! You just succeeded in turning my stomach! That is about the nastiest thing I have evern heard!