My large retriever likes to eat socks and tights. We do our best to keep our footwear out of his reach, but every once in a while, he gets one anyway. What should we do if we suspect he's eaten another?
Pets ingesting things they shouldn't can be a frustrating problem for their owners. If you suspect your pet has eaten an object, contact your veterinarian immediately. Depending on your pet, when the object was eaten, and what type of object it was, the vet may recommend inducing vomiting. This can be risky and should always be done under veterinary supervision. Even soft objects such as socks can become lodged in the esophagus, requiring emergency intervention by your veterinarian during the procedure. Additionally, with vomiting there is always the risk of aspirating (inhaling the vomitus into the lungs).
For some ingested objects that are still in the stomach, a procedure called endoscopy may be an option. This is minimally invasive but does require general anesthesia. Once the pet is asleep, a fiber-optic camera is passed down the esophagus and attempts are made to find and grab the object so it can be pulled back up and out the mouth as the endoscope is removed. This may not be an option if your pet recently ate a meal, as this can obstruct the camera's view.
Once an ingested object has entered the small intestine it becomes more difficult to remove with endoscopy. Sometimes pet owners get lucky and the object will be able to move through the entire GI tract with no problems.
The most important thing to focus on is prevention. Keep trash, toys, laundry and people food out of your pet's reach. Leash-walking your pet and keeping your pet kenneled while you are sleeping or away will also help limit exposure to these items.
This week's expert is Dr. Tanya Tag, chief of staff, veterinarian at the PET+ER and diplomate, American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.