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Eating the wrong thing

Nearly every day a dog presents at Pittwater Animal Hospital having eaten the wrong thing. Here is a list of things dogs have eaten in the last few months and how we approach each problem. The list is by no means comprehensive – dogs constantly surprise us with eating new and interesting things.

My dog has eaten Chocolate


By far the most popular. From chocolate chip cookies, Easter eggs, dark chocolate, toblerone to chocolates with the wrappers still on. We generally want to know the amount of chocolate eaten, type of chocolate (milk or dark) and the weight of the dog.

 

With milk chocolate in a large dog we are usually more concerned about the large fatty meal. Dark chocolate especially in a small dog can cause a dangerous chocolate toxicity. Chocolate toxicity makes dogs hearts race and causes agitation (a similar feeling to drinking too many coffees). At severe levels, chocolate toxicity can cause seizures and death.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 4 hours) and we will make your pet vomit.
  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Absorption of toxin: If a toxic level is suspected, and your pet is able to take oral medication, activated charcoal can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies systems and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Seizure watch: If there is a concern your dog may have a seizure, it will need 24 hour observation either at PAH or at NEVS

My dog has over-eaten food


Sometimes dogs will break into their food containers and over-eat by a huge amount. (This is a Labrador special.) Dogs can be very subdued with an obvious swollen abdomen. They will sometimes groan and have changes in their breathing.

 

It is useful to know how much food has been eaten, how long ago it happened, and if the packaging has been eaten.

Veterinary attention:

  • X-ray the abdomen: It can be useful to x-ray these dogs. X-rays will show the size of the stomach, the amount of food ingested and if there is any twisting of the stomach or gas building up. Twisted stomachs are an emergency problem which will cause your dog to rapidly deteriorate, needing emergency surgery and intensive care.
  • Make the dog vomit: This is a judgment call from the attending veterinarian. Dogs are not always made vomit, as our intention is always to do the least harm.
  • Some dogs will need intravenous fluids and pain relief: Over-eating can be very distressing and painful. Affected dogs will often benefit from fluid therapy and pain relief as the food journeys through the abdomen.
  • Rest at home: If there is no twisting of the stomach and the dog is not too distressed, it may be possible to send them home for a few quiet days with controlled food and water intake.

My dog has raided the Garbage Bin


Raiding the garbage bin can present a wide variety of problems.

  • Decomposing food can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Moldy food can cause seizures.
  • Fatty food can cause pancreatitis – causing severe abdominal pain and vomiting with progressive deterioration if not given intensive support.
  • Cooked bones can stay in the stomach not causing a problem then block the gastrointestinal tract once they enter the small intestine. Some cooked bones will proceed to the large intestine and cause constipation or pain when passing.
  • Foreign material such as plastic can eventually cause intestinal problems or blockages.
  • Liquid absorbers found under meat packaging, absorb fluid and can cause life threatening intestinal obstructions as they swell and block the gut.
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps such as corn cobs, mango seeds and peach seeds commonly cause intestinal blockages once they move through to the intestine.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, and we will make your pet vomit. (Preferably come in within 4 hours, but if there are foreign objects in the garbage it may be useful to induce vomiting even 12 hours later.) 

Some sharp objects such as satay skewers are too dangerous to try to remove through vomiting.  These dogs may need specialist referral for endoscopic removal or surgical removal at PAH.

  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Absorption of toxin: If a toxins are suspected, and your pet is able to take oral medication, activated charcoal can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies systems and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Seizure watch: If there is a concern your dog may have a seizure, it will need 24 hour observation either at PAH or at NEVS

My dog has eaten Marijuana


This very common toxicity can be seen when dogs find marijuana or marijuana cookies at home. It is also know to happen when dogs scavenge in local parks. (It is thought that they ingest drug contaminated human faeces – yes…ick. This can also contain other illicit drugs.)

Signs of marijuana toxicity include

  • An altered mental state. (The dogs are stoned)
  • Wobbly walking and disorientation
  • Dribbling urine
  • Seizures and collapse

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Usually the first knowledge of marijuana toxicity is when signs of toxicity are detected. We are unlikely to make a dog vomit if they have an altered mental state.
  • Monitoring: Mildly affected dogs are sometimes observed closely at home.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies systems and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Seizure watch: If there is a concern your dog may have a seizure, it will need 24 hour observation either at PAH or at NEVS
  • Laboratory tests: Concerning toxicities may be sent to NEVS for a drug detection test to determine if multiple drugs are involved. Routine blood and urine tests can guide our support of severely affected dogs.

My dog or cat has eaten plastic toys or household objects


Puppies eat plastic toys, balls, dog leads, fluffy toys, plastic packaging and ribbons, silicon cup cake molds, socks and underpants.

 

If you know that your dog is likely to have eaten something unusual, it is best to try to make it vomit as long as it is not a sharp object that may cause a problem when vomiting. (We once had a Labrador who ate a spiked corn cob holder – it needed removal via general anaesthetic and endoscope at NVS.)

 

Objects will stay in the stomach for some time not causing a problem, however once the objects move into the small intestine they can cause an intestinal blockage. Unfortunately not all objects will come up when you make the dog vomit, but it is worth a try even 24 hours after ingestion.

 

With any history of foreign body ingestion it is important to monitor for signs of intestinal blockage. These include

  • Vomiting, especially after eating
  • Passing less poos
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

If you suspect an internal blockage please seek immediate veterinary care.

My dog has eaten a Fish Hook


Our proximity to Narrabeen Lakes gives us a constant supply of fish hook problems. They get caught in paws and mouths but also swallowed.

 

If your dog swallows a fish hook it is best not to pull on the line. This could catch the hook in the wall of the gut or even tear through the gut.

 

Try to get to the vet as soon as possible and we can decide on the best way to deal with the fish hook problem.

Veterinary attention:

Dogs are often sedated or anaesthetised when they appear with a fish hook problem as they are often very distressed and causing the hook to imbed deeper in the tissue.

 

Hooks in the mouths or high up in the throat will often need to be removed by pushing the hook all the way through then cutting off the barb.

 

Hooks that have been swallowed and are in the stomach or intestine need careful assessment to address. We need to know if the hook is enclosed in bait and if there is any fishing line attached. Fish hooks are metal so they show up on x-ray, so the position can be assessed.

 

There have been times where fish hooks have passed all the way through. Other times a general anaesthetic and surgical removal is necessary.

My dog has eaten Sultanas or Grapes


It is a strange fact that dogs can be poisoned by grapes, sultanas and raisins. Some dogs will develop kidney failure a few days after eating these foods.

 

The effect is very variable between dogs and the toxic dose is not known. Even small amounts of grapes or sultanas have been known to cause kidney failure.

 

If you know that your dog has eaten grapes or sultanas please contact the vet as soo as possible.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 4 hours) and we will make your pet vomit.
  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will then need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Absorption of toxin: If it is suspected that your pet has absorbed the grapes or raisins oral medication – activated charcoal, can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies kidney function and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Labratory tests: Base-level kidney factors should be taken on the day your dog presents. Repeat tests on day 1-3 can monitor for any impairment to the kidney function.

My dog has eaten Rat Poison

Dogs will often discover baits left over from trying to exterminate rats. This will sometimes happen unexpectedly when your dog moves into a new house or visits someone else’s house.

 

Rat poison is usually a bluey-black colour and is often in a waxy block that looks like a bar of soap. Dogs that eat rat poison will not show any adverse signs for almost 48 hours. The poison stops the animal’s ability to make the blood clotting factor Vitamin K. As Vitamin K levels drop in the few days following ingestion, the dog may start to bleed internally. This can be very difficult to detect, especially if rat poisoning is not suspected.

 

Signs of internal bleeding include pale gums, swollen joints, increased respiratory effort, swollen abdomen, blood in the urine and collapse. Once these signs occur, intensive treatment is essential – usually up at the emergency service where a blood transfusion can be given.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible if you know that your dog has eaten rat poison or been somewhere where they might have been exposed to rat poison, (preferably within 4 hours). We will make your pet vomit and see if there is any evidence of the bluey-black rat poison.
  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will then need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Laboratory tests: Blood can be taken to examine your dog’s clotting times. The clotting time of blood becomes lengthened with exposure to rat poison. This generally starts to be measurable 24-48hrs after exposure to rat poison.
  • Vitamin K Medication: If it is suspected that your dog has eaten rat poison and not immediately been made vomit, we can start on the antidote Vitamin K. Tablets are taken twice daily for at least 3 weeks.
  • Laboratory tests: Repeat blood tests monitoring clotting factors, should be taken 48 hours after stopping Vitamin K or 48hrs after a suspected mild exposure. This will ensure clotting problems are detected before a bleeding disorder will begin.

Poisoned Dogs

  • Dogs with suspected internal bleeding should commence Vitamin K treatment as soon as possible.
  • Significant signs of internal bleeding will need a blood or plasma infusion to immediately increase clotting factors and stop bleeding. Internal bleeding from rat poison is a very serious life threatening condition. This problem can be fatal if detected too late of not treated aggressively.

My dog has eaten Blood and Bone or Fertilizer


When fertilizing your garden it is common for your dog to come through and dig up and eat the fertilizer. Sometimes they will eat large quantities of blood and bone which is a pelleted organic fertilizer.

 

Signs of toxicity tend to be more related to gastrointestinal upset with vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration becoming a problem. It is unusual to have any specific toxic problems with fertilizer.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 4 hours) and we will make your pet vomit.
  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will then need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Absorption of toxin: If it is suspected that your pet has eaten synthetic fertilizers, oral medication – activated charcoal, can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Dogs developing gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea are best supported with intravenous fluids.
  • Labratory tests: Unwell dogs can be monitored with blood tests to guide supportive care.

My dog has eaten nuts from the garden

The main nuts eaten on the Northern Beaches of Sydney are Date Palm Nuts. They can drop in large numbers in your garden. Even if you have no date palms, the nuts are often carried in by birds.

 

Most regular palm nuts will cause gastroenteritis as they pass though the gut. In small dogs they can cause intestinal blockages.

 

Nuts from cycads or sago palms can cause toxic changes to the liver and possible seizures.

 

We interesting saw a dog with mild poisoning this year after eating the nuts from the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plant –  Brunfelsia. The plant has purple flowers which change to white over a few days. The dog was mildly disoriented and unwell but recovered well after the nuts passed through.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: If your dog has eaten palm nuts, please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 4 hours) and we will make your pet vomit.
  • Reversal of vomiting: Many dogs will then need an anti-vomiting injection to stop them from vomiting.
  • Absorption of toxin: If it is suspected that your dog has eaten cycad or sago palm nuts, oral medication – activated charcoal, can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Dogs developing gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea are best supported with intravenous fluids.
  • Labratory tests: If there is any chance your dog has eaten cycad or sago palm nuts it is best to do baseline blood tests then monitoring bloods over the next 1-3 days. If there are signs of a rise in liver factors then liver protectant medication can be given.
  • X-rays: Palm nuts can cause intestinal blockages. If there is any suspicion of an intestinal blockage abdominal x-rays should be taken.

Sometimes nuts will stay in the stomach for some time not causing a problem, however once they move into the small intestine they can cause an intestinal blockage. Unfortunately not all objects will come up when you make the dog vomit, but it is worth a try even 24 hours after ingestion.

 

With any history of foreign body ingestion it is important to monitor for signs of intestinal blockage. These include

  • Vomiting, especially after eating
  • Passing less poos
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

If you suspect an internal blockage please seek immediate veterinary care.

My dog has eaten Sand


Our proximity to the ocean means many dogs will eat sand. Generally small amounts will pass through, but sometimes sand will accumulate in the small intestine and set like concrete. 

 

Some dogs will swallow sand from chasing balls on the beach. Others will find food to scavenge mixed up with sand.

 

With any history of sand ingestion it is important to monitor for signs of intestinal blockage. These include

  • Vomiting, especially after eating
  • Passing less poos
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy

Veterinary attention:

Animals are assessed with a full physical examination. If there is a large build up of sand in the small intestine it can often be palpated by your veterinarian.

 

Sand shows up well on an X-ray, so abdominal x-rays can be taken to look for an accumulation or any signs of intestinal blockage.

 

Mild blockages may be able to be treated with fluid therapy and oral laxatives. If the accumulation of sand is causing your dog to vomit and become unwell then surgical removal may be needed.

My dog has eaten Snail Bait


This is one of the most concerning poisonings in the dog. Luckily we have not seen a poisoning in 2021, but did see snail bait poisoning in 2020. Dogs will eat snail bait in your yard but are a great risk if they are allowed to wander unattended into other peoples yards.

 

Most snail bait looks like yellow-green pellets. Once eaten by the dog is causes drooling and trembling followed by seizures. The seizures are unlikely to stop without veterinary care. This is a critical emergency.

 

Untreated dogs that have eaten a moderate quantity of snail bait will usually die.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: If your dog has eaten snail bait, please come to the vet as soon as possible so it can be treated before the seizures start. If your dog is not yet affected we will make your pet vomit.
  • General anaesthetic and stomach lavage plus enema: Most dogs will need to have their stomachs pumped unless only a small amount of snail bait has been ingested. Dogs are anaesthetized and their airways controlled. Warm water is then pumped in and out of the stomach to removal as much toxin as possible. A warm water enema is then performed to remove as much toxin as possible from the large bowel. The intestinal tract is very long, so even with significant lavage and enema some toxin may remain.
  • Seizure control: Snail bait toxicities will often present having a seizure. Your veterinarian will need to insert an intravenous catheter and anaesthetize the dog while it is seizuring, at the same time as avoiding any gastric contents going down into the lungs.  This is an acute emergency and a very dangerous situation. When the dog has been anaesthetized and decontaminated the aim is to wake the dog up. Sometimes seizures will persist and need to be controlled over a number of days.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Affected dogs are gravely ill and need to be supported with intravenous fluids.
  • Absorption of toxin: Activated charcoal can be useful to try to absorb any remaining toxin. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog. This is extremely difficult in a seizuring dog as it is important that the dog does not vomit and breath in the activated charcoal. A charcoal slurry can be given by enema before the end of the anaesthetic – it is a messy job.
  • Laboratory tests: Any critically ill animal is best monitored with routine blood tests.

My dog has eaten Nurofen


Every month we have a dog present after eating Neurophen (ibuprophen). Dogs seem particularly attracted to the sugar coated tablets. Often the packet will be scattered all over the room. It is important when your dog has eaten Nurofen that you try to add up how many tablets may have been eaten.

 

Nurofen causes two major problems. Significant inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and renal failure. The extent of these signs is dose related and also depends on how much your dogs weighs.

 

Immediate veterinary care is needed to limit any damage the Nurophen tablets may cause your dog.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 2 hours) and we will make your pet vomit. Tablets are absorbed very quickly so it will only be worthwhile making your pet vomit if they have recently eaten the tablets.
  • Gastroprotectants: Damage to the stomach and intestinal mucosa can start straight away. Medication is given as soon as possible to protect the gut from ulceration and significant bleeding from the gut.
  • Absorption of toxin: Oral medication – activated charcoal, can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies kidney function and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Labratory tests: Base-level kidney factors should be taken on the day your dog presents. Repeat tests on day 1-3 can monitor for any impairment to the kidney function.

My dog has eaten human medication


Dogs seems to eat a variety of human medication from contraceptive pills to antianxiety medication. Pills are often rapidly absorbed so it can be quite difficult to remove the medication from vomiting.

 

Each medication will cause different problems. To help your veterinarian it is essential we know the exact medication, how many tablets have been eaten how long ago.

 

Most medications will not have a specific antidote so we rely on supporting the body systems while any medication is metabolized through the body.

Veterinary attention:

  • Decontamination: Please come to the vet as soon as possible, (preferably within 2 hours) and we will make your pet vomit. Tablets are absorbed very quickly so it will only be worthwhile making your pet vomit if they have recently eaten the tablets.
  • Gastroprotectants: Damage to the stomach and intestinal mucosa may start straight away. Medication can be given to protect the gut from ulceration.
  • Absorption of toxin: Oral medication – activated charcoal, can be given. This medication aims to retain any toxin within the intestinal contents and stop the toxin being absorbed and poisoning the dog.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy: Supports the bodies kidney function and encourages removal of toxin from the bloods.
  • Labratory tests: Base-level liver and kidney factors as well as red blood cell levels can be taken on the day your dog presents. Repeat tests on day 1-3 can monitor for any changes the toxin is causing over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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