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What to Do If Your Dog Swallowed Something They Shouldn’t Have

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Most dogs will chew and swallow almost anything, especially when they’re puppies. And although some objects may be small enough to swallow and digest with minor consequences, others may get stuck at some point—in the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach or intestines. 

Objects can get stuck due to size, shape or the materials they are made of. If your dog swallowed something toxic or potentially toxic, contact your veterinarian or ASPCA poison control immediately.

What to Watch For

Any sudden onset of choking that affects respiration should be dealt with immediately. Signs of intestinal or digestive discomfort (typically in the form of vomiting and possibly diarrhea) will require investigation.

Step one is searching for missing objects that your dog may have swallowed. Step two is visiting your veterinarian to verify that your dog swallowed the missing object. If you are unsure whether your dog could have ingested something, it is best to be cautious and visit your veterinarian. Left untreated, swallowed objects can be fatal.

Primary Cause

Fruit seeds/pits, bone, rocks, small toys, squeakers and other objects are frequently swallowed, usually by inquisitive pups, but also by pets whose chewing drive is high (Labrador Retrievers, Pit Bulls, etc.).

Sometimes objects have bits of food on them, and as a result, a dog will swallow the entire object. Dogs may also swallow something they enjoy chewing, like tennis balls and rope toys.

Immediate Care

  1. If the dog is choking and in respiratory distress, act quickly. (See the "Choking" guidelines.)

  2. Check the dog’s mouth for foreign objects that may be lodged there, and only if it’s very easily accomplished without injury to yourself, remove the objects. Sedation is often necessary in these cases.

  3. If you can see thread, string or another form of cord hanging from the dog’s mouth, do not pull it or cut it. Doing so may cause injury to the throat or esophagus, among other sensitive structures.

  4. If you know your dog swallowed an object, call your veterinarian immediately.

  5. In any of the above cases, take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you know what your dog swallowed:

  1. If the swallowed object is an acid, an alkali, a petroleum product, or you’re not sure, see “Poisons (Swallowed)” for guidelines. Do NOT induce vomiting.

  2. If the swallowed object is sharp, NEVER induce vomiting.

  3. In all cases, call your veterinarian immediately for advice as to the next steps required. These will vary depending on the object ingested, the time of ingestion and the symptoms the pet is currently exhibiting.

Veterinary Care

 

Diagnosis

A veterinarian will be able to perform tests and an ultrasound and take X-rays, or use an endoscope to determine if, and what, your dog swallowed. Based on the type and location of the object, your veterinarian may recommend surgery.

Treatment

Treating a dog that has accidentally swallowed an object can vary widely from simply plucking the object from the mouth or throat while sedated to intestinal surgery that may require the removal of several feet of bowel. The potential severity of a simple unchewed corn cob or sock cannot be underestimated.

Prevention

Although it’s almost impossible to stop dogs from putting things in their mouth, always be present and keep an eye on what they’re chewing. Avoid keeping too many dog toys as well as moisture-swollen (read: already well-chewed) dog chews around your home.

Items such as socks and underwear can also be a danger for chewing-prone dogs. Also be sure to remove large pits from fruit and dispose of them properly. Take away chew toys before they reach a size small enough to fit fully inside your dog’s mouth.

If your dog is a known chewer, he may need a basket muzzle when left unsupervised unless he is crated. Basket muzzles, like the OmniPet Italian basket dog muzzle, allow your dog to breathe, pant, and even drink water while preventing him from eating anything he shouldn’t.

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