“No! Don’t Eat That!” What to Do If Your Pet Eats Something They Shouldn’t.

As I was perusing the news the other day (a rare moment of calm whilst the little man was temporarily otherwise engaged), I came across an article about a Cockapoo who’d eaten a discarded facemask. In fact, the pooch, called Patch, also wolfed down a sock, which is the only thing the owners were aware he’d eaten … it wasn’t until he was x-rayed at the vets that the metal nose clip of the mask showed up. Thankfully, the sock and the facemask – nose clip included – were safely removed and Patch fully recovered from his naughty nibbling but, with the metal clip potentially causing a dangerous blockage, it could have been a different story. You’d never normally hear a vet say this, but thank goodness he fancied a sock for dessert, otherwise his owners would have been none the wiser until poor Patch became very ill.

As a side note, before I get on to the main point of this blog, I have noticed a huge number of carelessly discarded facemasks around the countryside, which is yet another very sad side effect of this pandemic and could have huge repercussions on wildlife for years to come. Please, please dispose of your facemasks sensibly and safely or, better still, where possible use reusable masks instead – they’re much better for the environment.

Now, where was I… ah, yes – poor Patch and his foolish feast………..

It got me thinking about how animals don’t always make that distinction between foodstuffs and, well, anything else really! Honestly – I could spend ages listing the bizarre things that animals I’ve encountered have ingested but I’m writing this during my coffee break and that would put me right off my chocolate digestive and, as I’ve been looking forward to a good dunk all morning, you’ll forgive me if I don’t. They’re not the fondest of memories.

Unfortunately, as I say, it’s not that unusual for pets to take it upon themselves to snack on inappropriate objects. But what should you do if you think (or know) that they’ve had an ill-advised nibble?

You might catch them in the act, or there may be evidence of their munching mayhem strewn about, in which case you can be fairly certain of what they’ve eaten and when. You should contact us ASAP and explain what has happened. Please don’t ever attempt to remove anything from the back of their throat or induce vomiting – honestly, this is a job for the experts and your well-meaning attempts could unfortunately just cause more problems. But, it is vital that any ingested object is removed safely and quickly by a vet as it could cause a whole host of potentially life-threatening problems from intestinal blockages to infection or bowel perforation. Waiting for it to ‘pass through’ isn’t always a good option.

If they’ve snaffled their silly snack in secret you may be blissfully unaware until they start to show signs that something’s amiss, such as gagging, choking, vomiting, abdominal pain/sensitivity, lethargy, lack of appetite, diarrhoea or constipation. Again, if your pet begins to show any of these symptoms, get in touch as soon as you can and let us check them out – and, if you have the merest suspicion that they’ve been partaking of a little inedible picnic, then let us know! The more information we have the quicker we’re able to make a diagnosis and resolve the problem.

If you know that your pet is prone to a little gastronomic experimentation, the best thing to do is remove temptation.

For example, if your dog likes to shred soft toys and consume the fluff, then it’s best to keep the teddies safely hidden out of harm’s way. I mean, aside from the evident danger to the dog, no-one wants to come home to a teddy bear massacre! Having a puppy can be similar to having a toddler in the house and it’s often wise to dog-proof everything – even down to putting safety clips on cupboard doors if Fido’s quite an inquisitive character. Curiosity can often get the better of pets, much to their detriment. Put anything that your pet shows an interest in nibbling safely out of reach (and remember how far they can jump or climb!). Sometimes chewing can be a sign of boredom; make sure your pet is getting plenty of exercise and stimulation – things like puzzle balls can be a good distraction and keep them entertained whilst giving the grey matter a workout. If the chewing only occurs when you’re out, it may be due to separation anxiety. Try leaving them with an old jumper or t-shirt to cuddle, as your scent may help them to settle.

It goes without saying that all household chemicals, medicines and potentially poisonous substances should be kept away from pets – or, if they’re in use, keep pets out of the room. If Kitty’s shown a penchant for drinking out of the toilet bowl, then whatever you do don’t leave bleach in there with the lid up! There are lots of natural, environmentally friendly cleaning products on the market, too, which provide safer options.

Likewise, in the garden be very careful what you use – things like slug pellets and weed killers can be poisonous so check labels and keep animals inside if you’re putting anything down that could be toxic. Ideally, choose products that aren’t harmful to pets to be on the safe-side and protect wild animals, too.

As I’ve mentioned before on a previous blog, antifreeze is appealing to cats due to its sweetness but even the tiniest amount (a spillage on your drive, for example) could cause kidney failure due to the highly toxic chemical compound (ethylene glycol) that it contains.

It’s not just non-foodstuffs and chemicals that can be bad for pets though. The most innocuous substances can be poisonous for our furry friends, despite being delicious to us. You may well be aware of the list of human foods that are not safe for cats and dogs, but here it is, once more for those at the back:

Dangerous for dogs:

Onions (or garlic & chives – anything from the onion family), chocolate, macadamia nuts, corn on the cob (the cob), avocado, artificial sweetner (Xylitol), alcohol, cooked bones, grapes and raisins.

Catastrophic for cats:

Onions, chives, garlic, chocolate, alcohol, lily pollen, human medicine such as ibuprofen & paracetamol, and, contrary to popular belief, milk (most cats are lactose intolerant and milk can give them a stomach upset).

Again, if you suspect that Fido or Kitty has had a munch on any of this bunch, call us as soon as you can. Even if they seem fine at the time, some of these (such as onions) don’t show symptoms straight away but can cause illness up to a few days later, so prompt treatment is really important to prevent long-term damage.

So, until next time, I’ll bid you adieu. I’m off to dunk my chocolate digestive safely out of reach of Ziggy, Poppy & Betty (and the little man, Jesse, but that’s not because they’re poisonous to him, more because he’d scoff the lot!). Stay safe and well – and don’t let your beloved fur babies feast on anything they shouldn’t!