It never fails; emergencies with our dogs always seem to happen in the middle of the night. Most of us always hope we can wait until morning to see our vet. Not so when your dog has ingested something potentially harmful. Such was the case when Zoe, our Saluki, decided to consume her favorite toy, a small, pink, plush Flamingo.
It all started when Zoe began playing with her favorite toy at 11 p.m. She seemed a little off, as if her hormones were out of balance. Her actions were telling me it was not your normal dog toy game, where the object is thrown up in the air and caught. Definitely not one of those entertaining games our dogs seem to love to play. Zoe’s eyes had a look to them that was almost menacing.
I decided I should get the flamingo out of her mouth because her body language said she was thinking about consuming it. The minute I went to grab the toy, Zoe she ran off. I pursued and followed her to our backyard. Each time I would go to grab it, Zoe would run away, as if playing a game of “catch me if you can.” As I watched Zoe, I now knew without a doubt she was going to swallow the toy. Within a minute or so, right in front of my eyes, I watched her take a big gulp. The toy was gone.
I have heard stories of dogs swallowing socks, underwear, peach pits, balls, branches, spools of thread or yarn, but luckily my dogs had never done such a thing — until now.
Recently, I spoke with veterinarian Dana Bliefer of Rose City Veterinary Hospital. She described an incidence in which a German Shepherd who had arrived from abroad had, unbeknownst to the new owner, a toy lodged in his intestine. The dog had vomited a portion of the toy, but the remainder was stuck in the colon.
Because this toy was hollow in the middle, it allowed the dog’s stool to pass through. After several weeks, the dog started to feel bad and developed diarrhea. Soon after, the dog’s owners decided to have the dog examined, and an X-ray diagnosed the problem. Fortunately, with surgery, the dog survived.
When asked how often dogs swallow unwanted things, Dr Bliefer said, “We see patients of all ages for ingestion of a foreign object, on a weekly basis.”
“We do not actually pump the dog’s stomach. In the event the client was quick in their response, we can activate vomiting to try and get the foreign object out,” she said. “In some cases, when the patient has ingested medication or toxins, we will treat with charcoal.”
“For patients who have been experiencing symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, not eating, no bowel movement) of a foreign object, we will take X-rays,” she continued. “In the event of an abnormality on the X-ray, we will perform a barium series, which typically takes six to eight hours, while keeping them hydrated before ruling on surgery. If there is no movement in the barium, we will go into surgery. Maybe 40 to 50 percent of cases go to surgery.”
None of us want to go to the emergency vet, but sometimes we must. Here is what I learned from my experience with the ingested toy:
1. There is a two-hour window
In the midnight call to the vet, I learned you have a two-hour window in which to have the dog examined and to hopefully safely extract the foreign object that he swallowed before the item makes its way into his intestines. This is critical, and can potentially make the difference between swift removal of the object or surgery.
This post is an excerpt from an article I wrote for Dogster.