The Weird Things Dogs Eat (that can be deadly!)

In today's blog post I want to just have a little chat about the strange things that dogs eat. They can eat some really random stuff! Join me as I talk about 3 cases I had recently during a weekend on call as well as some other notable patients I’ve seen through the years.


So what prompted this article was that I was on call the other weekend and it seemed to be the weekend where loads of dogs were eating really random stuff!

The battery eater

The first call I had was from a puppy's owner who was worried because she had chewed on the TV remote control and chewed on a battery. Now thankfully the battery hadn't burst and the puppy hadn't actually swallowed it. There was no harm done. Battery acid can be really corrosive and cause some really nasty ulcers. And if a battery is swallowed then that can cause really serious intestinal problems. The bottom line is that if this happens, surgical removal may be the best course of action.

Thankfully the pup was absolutely fine but it could easily have ended up as an absolute disaster.

The pill gobbler

The next dog had got into the medicine store and eaten his brother’s pills. The other dog in the house was on some heart medication and his brother clearly decided that he was obviously missing out, not getting these tablets every day, and ate a whole load of them.

Thankfully the owner found what had happened quickly, brought him into the clinic and we had to make the dog sick. The story ended there, no harm done!

Despite this happy ending, there's definitely the potential that if a dog eats any medication (either human or pet pills) then we can get some really serious problems. We are really fortunate that a lot of medications are now pet-friendly and designed to be highly palatable. After all, if you have to medicate your dog every day it is much easier if they actually take it like they would a treat. This means it is especially important to keep any pet medication well out of reach.

I've certainly seen several cases where dogs have chewed through the plastic container to get to their drug “treats”!

Anyone for underwear?!

My last case of random eating for the weekend was a slightly older puppy that had eaten a sock. Quite what was going through its mind I don't know, but that's what he ate!
Again, we made the puppy vomit and up the offending sock (funnily enough the owner was happy to put it in the bin rather than take it home to wash!).
Again, no harm done, but anything like this, be it underwear or different bits of bits of cloth, can cause something that we call a linear foreign body. What happens is the material can get stretched out in the guts and then get stuck. The intestines then get all bunched up onto the material and it actually saws through the intestines. This is an absolute disaster with a high risk of death.

I did have a patient a few months ago that had eaten a bird feeding fat ball that was wrapped in elastic mesh. It became stuck and started to cheese wire its way through her guts. She was incredibly sick when we took her to surgery, and she ended up needing 2 foot of bowel removing. Not only that, She then needed a feeding tube placing through her side directly into her stomach after developing serious ulceration or her esophagus.

Against all odds, she did remarkably well and went onto make a full recovery. Her owners were very keen to highlight the dangers of something they had never considered could be so harmful and the local paper put together her story here.

A similar danger is the string that's used to tie a roasting joint together. It's obviously a very tasty temptation that gets thrown away, but that's got these lovely meat juices soaked into it. But be it elastic string, a length of cotton thread or underwear elastic, a linear foreign body is far worse than any ball or solid object.

Stones, toys and anything else really

What else do dogs eat? Well you name it and I’m sure that somewhere a dog has eaten it! It could be stones, kebab sticks, bones, rubber toys, children's toys, anything (and that's not including all the potential pet poisons there are). Also, it’s not uncommon for a dog to be a multiple offender!

I've certainly had patients where we’ve had to remove stones or other objects on several separate occasions. In some cases, the only way to stop them eating things like stones when they go out is to put a basket muzzle on. They can still enjoy being out, they can have a sniff, they can pant, they can drink, but they can't eat anything! It might sound like an extreme action to take but if you had to have abdominal surgery multiple times then there's a recurring risk of death as well as a significant expense. Also, once a dog gets used to wearing a muzzle they stop even noticing it.

Supervision is vital

The take-home message for me is that for young dogs especially, you just don't know what they're going to eat. Supervising them is just so important. Just being aware of what's out and about, trying to clear up, keep the floor tidy so that there's nothing that can be eaten unnoticed. Also keeping your trash away and secure so your dog can't break into it and eat anything inside.

I'd love to hear from you, I'm sure if you've got a dog you will have stories about something they thought would be a good idea to chew on or try to eat. Let us all know in the comments so we can help try and avoid our own pets from needing emergency treatment or surgery.

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