I recently received a press release by Petplan Pet Insurance Company where they compiled a list of the most common claims that are filed for each month of the year. A comparison of multiple years would need to be done to determine if these stats are potentially significant or just an interesting tidbit.
I have decided to use this list to write monthly about the condition that was the most common for that month and offer any tips I can to help prevent these problems or at least educate pet owners about the condition from my perspective as a veterinarian.
Here's the list:
Source: Press Release
I'm beginning to think there may be something to this frequency of claims by month as we've had two unusual foreign body ingestion cases this month.
The first one was a cat that ingested a hair tie:
The second one was a little bit more of a puzzle. This dog was fine one day and then 2 days later very sick from vomiting multiple times and dehydrated. Here's the x-ray (tap on each image once to enlarge). You can see the faint U-shaped outline of a chapstick cap:
I once had a chocolate Lab as a patient that I removed a McDonald's happy meal toy from his intestines when he was a puppy. This dog went on to swallow many things during his lifetime, but fortunately never required surgery again to remove any of them. He would either vomit them up or pass them. His favorite things to swallow were socks, underwear, or a wash cloth.
One of the veterinary journals I get monthly has an annual contest (They Ate What?) soliciting entrants from veterinarians about unusual things they have seen pets swallow. Here's a sampling:
- golf balls
- gorilla glue
- sewing needle
- corn cob
- door hinge
- fish hook
- night light bulb
- pocket knife
In some of these incidents, the pet owner saw the pet swallow the foreign object and took steps prescribed by their veterinarian to either make sure it passed on its own or cause vomiting soon after ingestion in hopes that the pet would vomit the object back up. This is sometimes successful and avoids a more expensive solution - surgery. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian because some things a pet may swallow isn't retrieved safely using this method. Surgery is sometimes necessary to remove a foreign object from a pet's gastrointestinal tract can cost thousands of dollars.
Another thing that's technically not a foreign object, but can also cost thousands to treat is ingestion of human medications or accidently ingesting large amounts of a veterinary medication instead of the prescribed dose. Be sure to keep medications out of reach of your pets, particularly tasty chewable medications. When getting medications out of the prescription vial, do so over a sink so that the medication doesn't fall to the floor where your pet might snatch it up. Check out this podcast episode about one of my patients that accidently got hold of a bottle of Ibuprofen.
So, think about your pet. Is there something your pet likes to chew on or play with and it's crossed your mind before, "I sure hope he doesn't swallow that?" I encourage you to take steps now to keep such items out of reach.
Or perhaps you already know your pet has a tendency to swallow things. If so, maybe you've been lucky so far and it hasn't caused an obstruction requiring surgery. Let this article be a warning to you.
If you have pet insurance, some companies won't cover more than one foreign body ingestion annually because they consider it a preventable problem - especially if you already know your dog has a tendency to swallow things he or she shouldn't. If your dog has a bad habit of foreign body ingestion, you need to know exactly what your policy says about this.
Bottom line is that this is a potentially preventable problem, so be aware and be proactive in taking preventative measures to keep from having to make an emergency trip to the vet because of foreign body ingestion.
Leave comments below and share your experiences with foreign body ingestion by your pet. It might just help other readers avoid a large vet bill.