Most dogs will chew and swallow almost anything, especially when they’re puppies. And although some objects may be small enough to swallow and digested with minor consequences, others may get stuck at some point – in the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
What To Watch For
Any sudden onset of choking that affects respiration should be dealt with urgently. Signs of intestinal or digestive discomfort (typically in the form of vomiting and possibly diarrhea) will require investigation – often by verifying what toys and items are still present and deducing what may have been swallowed along with more specific veterinary means of deduction.
Fruit stones/pits, bone, rocks, small toys, and other objects are frequently swallowed, usually by inquisitive pups but also by pets whose chewing drive is high (Labrador retrievers, dobermans, etc.).
- If the dog is choking and in respiratory distress, act quickly. (See the "Choking" guidelines.)
- Check the dog’s mouth for foreign objects that may be lodged there and, only if very easily accomplished without injury to yourself, remove them. Sedation is often necessary in these cases.
- 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.
- In any of the above cases, take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
If you know what the dog has swallowed:
- If the swallowed object is an acid, alkali, a petroleum product, or you’re not sure, see “Poisons (Swallowed)” for guideline. Do NOT induce vomiting.
- If the swallowed object is sharp, NEVER induce vomiting.
- 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.
A veterinarian will be able to perform tests and take X-rays if you are unsure of what the dog has swallowed. Barium studies, ultrasounds and CT scans are but a few of the tools available to determine whether surgery may be required to remove the object or not.
Treating a dog that has accidentally swallowed an object can vary widely from simply plucking the object from the 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 tube sock cannot be underestimated.
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 toys as well as moisture-swollen (read: already well-chewed) chewsticks around your home. Human items, such as socks and underwear, can also be a danger for chew-prone dogs. Lastly, remove large pits from fruit and cut up food before serving it to a dog, especially cooked gristle.