Dogs Eat the Darndest Things
I’m supposed to be writing blog entries this month about nutrition and supplements. That’s important stuff, but I thought for this article we could go off on a literally juicier dietary tangent.
Dogs are gross at times, can we all agree on that? The stinky things they enjoy sniffing and rolling themselves in can induce a gag reflex in your average human, and we here at the hospital are continually amazed at what they’ll actually ingest. Aside from sheer foulness, problems occur when a pet eats something toxic or when the material is non-digestible and too large to pass through the bowel. These cases can be fun (pets usually recover fully) and funny (what a goofy dog!).
Owners sometimes suspect a neighbor poisoned their sick dog. However, it’s much more common for the dog to have accidentally poisoned herself. One of the most toxic substances we regularly see patients having eaten is zinc, which is found in pennies from 1983 and later (before that they were mostly copper), and in some hardware. We’ve taken x-ray pictures showing what must’ve been handfuls of pennies, nuts, washers, and bolts in the stomach. Maybe dogs think it’s candy? Kibble? One particularly unappetizing toxin case involved a Doberman coming into the hospital and vomiting up an enormous, poison-laced rat. When our seasoned technicians get a little queasy, you know it’s disgusting.
Foreign body surgeries, to relieve intestinal obstructions, can be especially rewarding. The patient’s problem is often solved tidily and we get to remove some pretty interesting chewed-up evidence. During surgery our team has removed the zipper from a dog bed along with copious amounts of stuffing, steel wool, various underwear and socks, a bikini top AND bottom tied together, and a plastic McDonald’s spoon that a Newfoundland had swallowed whole while sharing an ice cream sundae. Occasionally we will see repeat offenders, such as the golden retriever who had surgery twice in one year after eating children’s socks. We also treated a cat (it’s true, cats are not immune to poor choices) who obstructed twice before the owner figured out it was foam padding from their Swiffer mop.
I have great empathy for the owners of these wayward pets because my pointer Charlie was infamous for his creative eating. Over 12 years, a partial list of his unauthorized diet included: a bunch of bananas in the peel, a six-pack of bagels, 5 pounds of a room-mate’s dog food, another room-mate’s lunch (Charlie wasn’t popular in the house), a Halloween pumpkin, a honey bear, a bag of sugar, a ballpoint pen, a bar of soap, diapers, and the piece de resistance—an entire cantaloupe which no one realized was missing until we saw the aftermath. Yes, dogs are crazy, and gross, and make us wonder “what were they thinking?”, but they make my job, and my life, so much sweeter.
Robin Lake, DVM
Foster Animal Hospital