Has your dog gone and swallowed something strange? Keep calm, we’ve got a guide to help!

“Be most alert to this possibility early in a dog’s life,” says John Berg, Cummings School surgeon. “They like playing with things, are curious about the world, and investigate with their mouths.”

It’s not only pups who are prone to swallowing things. “We do occasionally see older dogs swallow foreign objects, too,” Dr. Berg continues. “And some dogs are chronic repeaters. Don’t think a dog will learn from his experience and not do it again. We’ve seen dogs go back to surgery multiple times for foreign object removal.”


  1. Safe-ish to swallow – watch this space


Coins. While the heavier ones may stay at the bottom of the tummy, as long as they don’t contain pure zinc parts, your dog is safe …for now. But do have a vet check-up to be sure (and see the warning about zinc below).

Chicken bones. Most of us have heard the line that chicken bones are not good for dogs. However, the idea that they will splinter and puncture the gut is “largely an urban myth,” Dr. Berg advises. “Chicken bone will almost inevitably dissolve in the stomach.” Best to avoid feeding chicken bones to your pooch, but if s/he happens to eat one, watch your pooch closely for a few days. Some symptoms are signs of blood in the stool, diarrhoea or constipation.


  1. Uh oh – call the vet right now

Underwear, socks, stockings. Basically, any cloth items, whether synthetic material or cotton/linen/silk. It can obstruct the digestive tract or colon leading to serious illness. Keep fabric serviettes, kitchen towels and wiping cloths out of reach of the curious nose and make sure the laundry basket is securely closed.

Plastic wrap. It applies to all single-use plastic often found around deli foods and other edible items from the supermarket, but meat-eating households are particularly subject to this one. Doggles love the scent of fresh meat and may eat the glad wrap all up if they get at it. To avoid complications in your hound’s gastrointestinal tract, make sure your rubbish bins are dog-proof, or, even better, wash and dry the plastic and pop it into an eco-brick and save the planet while you protect your pup.

The little things
.  These are the things we often don’t think of, like bottle tops. You may not even see your dog swallowing them. “Larger items, like a wad of fabric, tend to remain in the stomach,” Tufts Your Dog advises. “Smaller ones, like little rocks, often pass out of the stomach and then get stuck in the small intestine.”


      3. Emergency ward, now. get straight to the veterinary hospital


String and stringy things.  “Linear foreign bodies” often get stuck under the tongue or in the stomach and stay there. They can cut the digestive organs leading to internal bleeding and septicaemia. Watch out for string tying parts of your beef or turkey in place – they taste yummy to a dog.

Magnets. Useful around the house, they can be detrimental inside a dog’s body. Multiple magnets can attract or repel each other, interfering with the digestive tract or related organs (like the stomach or colon). They can also tear the walls.

Things that swell. Raw couscous, seaweed, and even pasta all swell when liquid is added. If enough is swallowed, they can swell in the gut and cause infection, obstruction, or even burst.

Wood glue. In large volumes this substance can swell in the stomach. If it hardens there, it needs to be removed by surgery.

Some twigs and branches may break down quickly – like softwoods – but others may take longer. The splinters can cause infections as they pierce their way through the body. Chopsticks, and sosati sticks with sharp ends, are particularly dangerous as dogs favour them for their delicious fishy and meaty flavours. These can become lodged or cause perforations.

Pure-zinc parts. Zinc metal (Zn on the table of elements) will break down in the digestive tract, but dog’s stomachs are sensitive to this element. If the object remains in the stomach, the toxic element can lead to ulcers or kidney failure. Be aware of the parts of mobile phones, kids toys and household electronics.  


Treatment for swallowed objects

While every case is unique, there are some standard scenarios with standard responses.

  1. On its way out. This is for objects that have already travelled from the throat to the large intestine. It will probably pass out in the stool (poop). No surgery is performed on the large intestine.
  2. Stringy thing in the small intestine. You cannot remove this with an endoscope (inserted into the anus) as it may cut the intestine.
    Surgery is required.
  3. Torn inside. This is when the object has created tears or perforations. This often happens in the oesophagus (throat) or intestines.
    Surgery is also required here.


Rule of thumb – Prevent the problem

Dogs will be dogs, and that includes testing everything with the mouth. It’s a great idea to prevent the problem in the first place by frequently scanning your home and put anything dangerous out of your canines’ reach. A regular, room-by-room check can keep the dog-hurting foreign objects in the right place. You could gamify the process by challenging your kids to do the same. Offer a prize to the person who moves the most dangerous objects out of Snoopy’s reach each week.


Remember, whether your dog needs a check-up or an emergency procedure, dotsure.co.za’s affordable  pet cover will help you with the costs of medical care for swallowed objects. You tell us how much you are happy to pay per month and we’ll tailor the premium for your pet(s). Ask us about Name Your Price ™ today.