Dogs eat the darnedest things, UT finds
Veterinary college has seen it all, from bras to fish hooks
By DARREN DUNLAP
The Knoxville News Sentinel
KNOXVILLE — When Melissa Kennedy's dog, Bubba, ate a section of the kitchen floor, she had to take him to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
Bubba, a mixed-breed chow, hadn't simply chewed up the linoleum floor. He had eaten and swallowed sections of it.
Kennedy, also a veterinarian and faculty member at the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine, was relieved when the linoleum was "fished out" using an endoscope rather than surgery.
While she was at the pet ER, she got a reason for his strange choice of snack. Staff discovered he had chronic gastritis caused by helicobacter, which can result in dogs' eating strange or nonfood items. Veterinarians call this condition pica.
Sometimes dogs eat strange things because of nutritional deficiencies.
Sometimes they have liver disease.
And sometimes, veterinarians will tell you, dogs eat the darnedest things, and it's not always clear why.
"Sometimes it can be quirk," said Kennedy. "Sometimes it's an odor."
For a broad sampling of the objects that dogs eat (and survive), you need look only as far as the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and its adjoining teaching hospital.
An e-mail request for a roll call of these objects and corresponding stories elicited a number of responses in less than 24 hours.
No one reported their dogs had died from consuming the odd objects devoured and (sometimes) recovered.
Underwear was a popular entry.
One woman lost a "yellow smiley face" bra to her pooch.
Another woman reported losing several items, including pantyhose and 13 pairs of underwear. The dog also ate rope and rocks, but only the underwear had to be surgically removed.
Thong eaten by boxer
Veterinarians once discovered a Victoria's Secret thong in the belly of a boxer. It was gray when they found it, but they thought it might have been white at one time.
Jewelry made the list as well.
A woman lost a diamond pendant necklace to a cocker spaniel puppy. The family waited, and, two days later, retrieved it when the puppy passed the pendant, a gift from a boyfriend.
Some owners have lost paychecks to their hounds.
"My parents have a Lab mix who has eaten two paychecks. Both times there was not a scrap of the paycheck left. Try explaining that to an employer," replied one person at the veterinary hospital.
Dogs like hemp twine (a 50-foot section of it, in one canine's case) and ribbon for presents.
"My Zoie has an affinity for curling ribbon," one faculty member responded. "It seems she can always find it (especially at the holidays), and it takes about two days to
UT library books, squeakers from dog toys, exposed wiring from a trailer, six tube socks (at once), rubber bands, door glass, napkins, a peppermint plant, and toys.
Dogs devoured things that seemed like food, staff and faculty reported.
A 7-pound Chihuahua ate 125 Super Complex-B tablets. Another dog ate a large jar of Vaseline. Then there was the pooch who gobbled two 5-pound bags of Dum Dums and spicy jerky.
Karen Tobias, a surgeon at UT's veterinary hospital, said the staff sees a lot of dogs that have swallowed fish hooks.
Her advice to owners: Don't pull on the line because it'll set the hook.
Endoscope is handy
Using an endoscope — a long, flexible tube that can be sent down a digestive tract — veterinarians can view an object such as a hook and retrieve it.
They get a lot of retriever-type dogs that carry things around and swallow them, she said. But one of the cases that stuck with her was that of a Great Dane puppy, barely a year old.
"The owner noticed not only that some of his toys were missing, but that it was starting to have some problems vomiting," she said.
It wasn't clear from endoscopy what was in the dog's stomach, either. But when Tobias went in surgically to remove it, two plastic toys popped out, each about the size of a fist. They were plastic birds, and she named them "Hekyll and Jekyll."
Veterinarians try to get dogs to vomit or pass objects when possible.
For one thing, surgery can be expensive. Depending on the case, X-rays, blood work,
anesthesia, surgery and aftercare can run about $1,300 to $1,400.