Dogs Swallow First, Think Later

By Amy Fernandez

Reprinted from: The Canine Chronicle

Every laundry routine includes that perennial search for disappearing socks. They go in two at a time and, via some sort of hocus pocus, they return alone. That probably explains how a 3-year-old Great Dane in Portland, OR successfully munched a few dozen socks before his sock proclivity caught his owner's attention.

He was binging away when his habit finally caught up with him. His severely distended abdomen and violent digestive trouble landed him at Dove Lewis Animal Hospital where x-rays revealed a large, unidentifiable mass lodged in his stomach. That shock was magnified considerably when the ensuing exploratory surgery revealed an unexpected surprise.

ER vets were admittedly astounded as they spent the next two hours pulling out one sock after another for a grand total of 43.5. The whereabouts of sock number .5 remains unconfirmed, but the dog recovered quickly and uneventfully.

The incredulous veterinary staff subsequently submitted the dog's x-ray to the annual "He Ate What" contest sponsored by The Veterinary Practice News. Now in it's eighth year, past winners have included a phantasmagorical array of objects that veterinarians have removed from gluttonous pets. Even so, this sock cache seemed like a sure winner. NOT! They were beaten into third place by an entry submitted by an Animal Hospital in Gulf Breeze, Florida. A six-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer couldn't match the voracious Dane in terms of quantity. He consumed only one item, but an 18-inch BBQ skewer definitely impressed the judges.

He was rushed to the ER after his owner discovered an uncooked kabob missing from her kitchen counter. She knew exactly where it went. However, the vet remained skeptical, later admitting that he agreed to do an x-ray simply to calm the owner's fears.

But there it was. Once again, the surgery and subsequent recovery was uneventful.

While both of these reports seem incredible, this contest confirms the canine propensity to "swallow first, think later." It's certainly an excellent reminder why owners should supervise canine dining and know the canine Heimlich maneuver. Oversized chunks of food pose the most common hazard. But more often than not, dogs somehow manage to dislodge or swallow these choking hazards. That alone confirms the miraculous properties of the canine digestive system. Evolution has equipped dogs to scavenge, gorge, starve, and cope with an incredible range of dietary extremes.

However, another recent news item really put that into focus. A few months prior to the sock-munching incident, a ten-year-old mixed breed in Stevens Point, Wisconsin stunned his owner with an extraordinary demonstration of his digestive skill. She had long ago given up on finding her wedding ring after it mysteriously disappeared. But two days after swallowing a Popsicle stick, which the dog regurgitated without incident, he vomited again. And there was her long lost diamond ring. Veterinarians speculate that the stick finally dislodged the errant bauble that had been tucked away inside the jewel thief for five years.

All these incidents ended on a happy note, many similar incidents do not. Although breeders are perpetually vigilant about these hazards, it's equally important to emphasize this multi-faceted risk to puppy buyers.