Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why do pets eat weird, dangerous things?

Not long after adopting a 6-month-old lab/German shepherd mix named Libby, Erin Truter of Springfield started noticing things were missing from her family’s home. “It started about three weeks after we adopted her, the kids toys started missing,” Truter said.

“It wasn’t until I took the pooper scooper in the backyard and realized that in one pile we had G.I. Joes; in another pile, there were magnetics; and then in another pile were two of their Nintendo DS games. “The last pile was classic. I found two ink pens and my husband’s toothbrush.”

Truter’s family eventually found a home better suited to Libby. But the family was among a number of people who learned that the saying “This too shall pass” holds new meaning when you consider the variety of items some pets have eaten ... and passed.

Humans might understand why Rover would eat food items. But pets have swallowed all kinds of hard, dangerous plastic items, decorative lights and the aforementioned oral hygiene product.

Something to keep in mind to avoid a tragic mishap: “Puppies like to chew on things with human scent on them, like TV remotes and glasses,” says Dr. Chris Curry, veterinarian and owner of Laketown Animal Hospital in Springfield.

That might explain some of the things Curry has seen consumed by pets over the past 14 years of treating animals: Underwear, a leather boot (surgery produced the tongue of the boot with the tag still intact), straight pins off a new men’s dress shirt, corn cobs, tampons, rings, hair holders, towels and carpeting.

Shanny, a Siberian husky, clearly concerned about saving for the future, ate a $100 bill.

“After waiting a day or two (and being prepared with a lot of rubber gloves), she gave it back to me,” said Shanny’s owner, Springfield teacher Lindy Wilkinson. “Someone had said to keep it and try to send it to the U.S. Treasury to see if they would exchange it. I cleaned it up (again with the rubber gloves) and sent it in, figuring ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I wasn’t going to use that money anyway. A few weeks later, I received a check from the U.S. Treasury for $100.”

Stephanie White’s chow/Shar-Pei mix, Winston “Winnie” Dale, ate a cassette tape of a popular movie soundtrack when she was 2. After taking her to the vet, who gave her a liquid treatment to induce vomiting and bowel movements, the family settled in to wait.

“Poor baby was ill the rest of the day. Late into the evening, she finally passed the whole bound-up wad of cassette tape,” said White. “We just couldn’t believe that she ate the whole thing. She must not have liked ‘Footloose.’”

No matter what type of situation, when it comes to your pets, Curry offers this piece of advice: “When in doubt, call your vet.”

While these stories may seem funny in retrospect, they illustrate how seemingly innocent household items – or even simply giving Fido a nibble off your dinner plate – could lead to a medical emergency for pets.

“Many things people may not be aware that are dangerous to dogs are grapes, apple seeds, raisins, onions, chocolate, anti-freeze, sugar-free gum, bread dough and some household plants,” Curry said.

Curry says cats are generally more discriminating than dogs.

“But cats do eat things, linear foreign bodies,” he said. “Things like yarn, thread, dental floss and string can have a damaging effect in the small intestines and can be fatal.”

Keith and Linda Gray of Carlinville came home from a vacation in 2003 to find that their cat, Bob, had broken into the kitchen cabinets and ate the Wilton’s candy chips used for making candy.

“He also loved to eat corn on the cob and pork rinds,” Linda added.


According to the American Animal Hospital Association, these are just a few of the foods, plants and other common household items that can cause serious problems if Fido or Fluffy eat them.

PLANTS: Azaleas and other rhododendron family plants, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, hyacinth bulbs, milkweed, most species of lily bulbs, holly berries, tobacco products, oak, rhubarb leaves

FOODS: Avocado (in dogs), chocolate, eggplant, tomato leaves and stems, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, castor beans, alcoholic beverages

If your think you pet has eaten these items, or if your pet is vomiting, has diarrhea or is staggering, call your veterinarian right away.


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