For many veterinary clinics around Australia taking a call from a distressed pet owner about requiring immediate attention for their beloved animal is not an uncommon occurrence. According to Pet Insurance Australia, both dogs and cats can be guilty of ingesting some strange items – and causing their owners a lot of heartache and money in the process!
“For some, it’s simply a case of disbelief that their companion animal has found themselves in this situation,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. “For other owners, it’s finding out that Rovers tummy ache was caused from an embarrassing ingestion of a particular under-garment.
“PIA had a case back in 2015 where a dog had ingested a sewing needle to the tune of around $5000,” Crighton says. “It was a very serious and usual case, but luckily the dog made a full recovery, and the owner had comprehensive pet insurance.”
How do you know of your pet has swallowed something bad?
According to Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson, Dr David Neck, the biggest sign a pet has swallowed something it cannot digest is vomiting.
“Continuous vomiting, multiple times daily,” says Dr Neck.
“If fluid or food cannot get past an obstruction, they come back out the mouth. Along with this is depression, anorexia (loss of appetite), lethargy and occasionally diarrhoea. They may have abdominal pain which can be severe, particularly if the bowel is compromised.”
If you do suspect that your pet may have swallowed something unusual, Dr Neck encourages you to seek medical attention straight away.
“It is far easier to remove an object from the stomach than if it gets a chance to pass further down into the intestines,” he says.
“We can often retrieve stomach foreign bodies with a scope and avoid the need for surgery altogether. In fact, if deemed safe, we can sometimes use drugs to induce vomiting and retrieve the object without the need even for an anaesthetic. It’s better to have an empty house than a grumpy tenant! Once an object lodges in the intestines, surgery is the only option. If surgery is delayed, bowel can become compromised and even turn necrotic, which means sections of bowel may need to be removed and this is always a major procedure and risks of life threatening complications are higher.”
What type of things do our pets swallow?
When it comes to what household items can cause problems, Pet Insurance Australia has taken a quick look through the archives to dig up some unusual issues faced by some dog and cat owners. As well as a the needle issue, mentioned earlier, PIA warns that, for cats in particular, things such as string and dental floss can be a problem.
“Even though the stereotypical image of a cat chasing string is cute, in reality it can spell disaster for a cat owners,” Crighton warns. “The string can actually become attached to an anchor point, normally being the tongue. The foreign body will then continue down the animal’s digestive tract. This can bunch and actually saw though the sensitive tissues.”
Recently in the USA a Great Dane exhibiting symptoms of stomach problems was found to have eaten 43 socks. Some pets have eaten entire tubs of butter leading to pancreatitis, while others seem to have a strong affiliation with eating, and swallowing, underwear.
“Seems the most popular variety removed from the stomachs of dogs seems to be g-strings,” Crighotn says. “However funny or mind boggling this may seem, the risk to the pet, and the cost of surgery can be very large. Luckily, for the dogs and cats on our records they had good insurance, so the financial part of the stress was removed from the ordeal.”
The above items are all familiar to the AVA’s Dr Neck.
“The most commonly reported intestinal foreign bodies in dogs include latex, rubber or plastic objects, stones, balls, underwear, pantyhose, towel or other fabric, carpet and corn cobs,” he says.
“If it can go in their mouth and be swallowed, and doesn’t digest, it can cause an obstruction!
“Cats are more likely to ingest linear foreign bodies such as string or thread. Particularly dangerous seems to be the netting that can be found around lamb or pork roasts.
“I personally have removed over a dozen foam ear plugs from ferrets who appear to have a predisposition for this as a foreign body.”