Jan 15 2013

Safety for Pets Around Holiday Decorations (aka “He ate what??”)

I’d like to start this month’s article by telling you all about a couple of dogs named Bob.  Bob The First was a client’s animal, a young weimeraner who presented to our clinic a few years ago with an upset stomach of a few days duration.  On examination, we found his abdomen to be very tender to the touch, and decided to do x-rays.  The images showed evidence of a foreign object in Bob’s intestinal tract.  Bob was taken to surgery, and a small roasting potato was removed from his small intestine, where it had effectively blocked all passage of food material.  Bob made an excellent recovery, and was back home within a couple of days.  He then broke into another cupboard and ate a 2lb bag of sugar, but that is another story…

The second Bob is my 5 year old black lab.  And yes, he was named after Bob #1.  Bob is a wonderful, happy-go-lucky dog, a typical lab that is eager to put anything into his mouth.  So I suppose it was only a matter of time before my Bob ate something he shouldn’t.  In fact, Bob managed to eat many, many things that he shouldn’t.  He has just managed to get away lucky on most occasions.  But on a Friday night this November, Bob decided to eat our carpet.  Yes, the carpet.  Why?  Because he’s Bob.  We eventually needed to surgically remove a good deal of long carpet fibres from his small intestine, and he has now made a full recovery. 

So why am I telling these stories?  First of all, gastro-intestinal foreign bodies are a lot more common than many people think.  In recent memory, we have removed hair elastics, baby bottle nipples, rocks, bottle lids, socks, toy parts, string, and even a pair of panties, along with the aforementioned potato and carpet, from the stomachs and small intestines of dogs and cats at our hospital.  Secondly, we are fast approaching the prime season for foreign bodies.  Christmas trees and glittery holiday decorations often offer too much temptation for our four-legged companions to pass up.  Tinsel is especially infamous for tempting kitties – and often they manage to get one end wrapped around the base of their tongue, and their intestines get all bunched up trying to move it along unsuccessfully. 

The bottom line is this: while we may not be able to prevent all mishaps (Carpet, Bob?  Seriously?), an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.  Keep tinsel out of your house if you have cats.  Monitor all pets around holiday trees and decorations, confining them away from any decorated areas when not under supervision.  Please contact your veterinary team promptly if any concerns appear – persistent vomiting and inappetance (disinterest in food) are the most common symptoms to look out for, and prompt intervention is a key factor in optimizing patient outcome in these cases.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Dr. Mandy Emery

gaah403 | Client Education


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