Pets that swallow objects need immediate attention

Vets: Items can be dangerous, shocking

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    Danielle Wiley gives a treat to her cat Cairo in Ballville Township, Ohio. One of her three cats loves to swallow anything stringlike.

    The Blade/Lori King
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  • Danielle Wiley gives a treat to her cat Cairo in Ballville Township, Ohio. One of her three cats loves to swallow anything stringlike.
    Danielle Wiley gives a treat to her cat Cairo in Ballville Township, Ohio. One of her three cats loves to swallow anything stringlike.

    When Danielle Wiley’s cat Cairo swallowed the 8-inch string cord that closed her gym bag, she knew it wasn’t good.

    “I was hoping he would vomit it up, but that didn’t happen,” she said. “I watched him get sicker and sicker and I knew I had to do something.”

    Emergency surgery and $1,000 later, the 3-year-old Siamese cat survived. But he still fancies anything with string and Ms. Wiley, of Ballville Township just outside of Fremont, must be diligent to keep things away from him at her father’s home, where he and her two other cats live.

    Veterinarians from across the country recently submitted X-rays to the “Veterinary Practice News” annual “They Ate What?” competition. A dog from New Jersey was rushed to the vet’s office after downing a 14-inch wooden back scratcher. Another odd, but commonly swallowed item is video-game controls.

    Dr. Gary Thompson, a Sylvania Township veterinarian, said there’s nothing he hasn’t seen a dog or cat swallow. “I had one dog swallow a kitchen knife, handle first,” he said. “Another swallowed a large beach towel, completely intact.”

    Items that pet owners should try to keep out of reach include kids’ toys and anything with string, including dental floss or yarn. “Cats’ tongues are like Velcro and when something stringy gets stuck, they only can swallow the item,” he said. “The intestines have trouble passing a string-type object and it can literally razor through intestines.”

    Clothing, especially underwear, is a popular item for dogs to swallow. Other common items include toys, balls, and rocks.

    “One family had to remove all of the rubber tips to the spring door bumpers due to their cat eating them,” he said.

    Very few foreign bodies are vomited. Smaller articles of clothing may pass in the stool. Pet owners never should induce vomiting without professional advice. Some things can cause more trouble coming up than going down, he said.

    Surgery is indicated if the vomiting persists, the dog or cat is sick or in pain or if there is potential for serious systemic side effects, such as when coins are swallowed.

    Hydrogen peroxide can be used to induce vomiting, he said. “It is a generally safe and effective method for people to do at home, but again, not without some guidance,” Dr. Thompson said. “Too much peroxide can cause serious electrolyte problems. Never give any other home remedies like syrup of ipecac or mineral oil.”

    Dr. Robert Esplin, a Sylvania veterinarian, said one of the most unique removal surgeries his practice has conducted was after a dog swallowed 12 pacifiers. “Less than six months later we had to do surgery to remove another pacifier,” he said. “The dog was able to pick it up off the table. The client has twin babies and two dogs.”

    In another case, a dog swallowed a stick that looked like a minihockey stick, with a handle about 8 inches long and a bottom “blade” 3 inches across.

    “It was a golden retriever puppy,” he said. “I have no idea how he managed to swallow it.”

    He also has removed a tennis ball from a German shepherd’s stomach. “The mental picture of how hard a dog has to swallow to get that down is difficult.”

    In another case, he opened up a mastiff’s chest and esophagus to remove a large bone that could not move into the stomach or be removed with a scope.

    The stories of weird objects swallowed are endless, he said. “There was another golden that ate a bunch, and I mean a bunch, of corn cobs from the garbage can,” Dr. Esplin said. “Or how about the two pairs of thong underwear on Christmas Eve.”

    Peroxide is commonly used to induce vomiting but there are experts that think the damage to the stomach lining is very harmful, he said.

    “Anything sharp or large enough to only come up halfway is not a candidate for vomiting removal,” he said. “We try to use the endoscope if we do not think vomiting is indicated.”

    The only way to avoid such problems is to be diligent in keeping all foreign objects out of reach, both veterinarians agree.

    Ms. Wiley’s cat needs constant monitoring, almost like a baby, she said.

    “We had to child-proof the house,” she said. “He just can’t help himself when it comes to string or anything dangling.”

    Contact Tanya Irwin at, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.