Dogs Swallowed Objects: Symptoms & First Aid for Dogs Eating Objects

Swallowed objects kill dogs and puppies every day. While in many cases, eating foreign objects causes only minor problems, it’s important to recognize swallowed objects symptoms, and what you can do to save your dog.

swallowed objects

Anything is fair game to puppies. These Dalmatian pups could chew off and swallow pieces of the shoes or (worse!) swallow the string!

Dogs explore their world by mouthing, tasting, and chewing and as a result, swallowed objects get them into trouble. Puppies may gulp some things accidentally when a piece of a toy breaks off. Other dangerous objects prove too tempting–used tampons, and even grease-smeared foil proves irresistible to puppies who troll the wastebaskets for scraps. Foreign body obstruction in puppies can be a medical emergency that costs you money and could cost your puppy his life.

Common Swallowed Objects

Veterinary pet insurance claims adjusters ranked the top ten most common items surgically removed from pets’ gastrointestinal tracts. The most common item is socks, followed by underwear, pantyhose, rocks, balls, chew toys, corncobs, bones, hair ties/ribbons, and sticks. Most items tend to be owner-scented objects, but the list doesn’t stop there.

Whole toys or parts of toys, jewelry, coins, pins, erasers, and paper clips are often swallowed. String, thread (with or without the needle), fishing hooks and lines, Christmas tree tinsel, and yarn are extremely dangerous. String from turkey roasts is particularly appealing so watch out for those holiday food hazards. And for puppies able to crunch up the object, pieces of wood or bone prove hazardous. Even too much of a rawhide chew can stop up his innards. Puppies may even eat rocks.

First Aid for Swallowed Objects

swallowed objects first aid

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  • If the item was swallowed within two hours, it’s probably still in the stomach. If the object isn’t sharp, feed your pet a small meal first, and then induce vomiting. The food helps cushion the object and protect the tummy, and also pets vomit more easily if the stomach is full. If he doesn’t vomit, you’ll need to see a veterinarian.
  • For sharp objects go to the vet immediately. It could cause as much damage coming back up if the puppy vomits.
  • After two hours, the object will have passed into the intestines and vomiting won’t help. Most objects small enough to pass through the digestive system may be eliminated with the feces and cause no problems. Feed a bulky meal of dry food to cushion stones or other heavy objects, and help them move on out. Food also turns on the digestive juices, which can help soften wads of rawhide treats, so they pass more readily. In most cases as long as it is small enough, objects pass harmlessly through the body and end up on the lawn. Monitor your puppy’s productivity. Use a disposable popsicle stick or plastic knife to chop up and search through the puppy droppings for the object.
  • The exception to allowing small objects pass are swallowed metal objects like coins or batteries. DON’T WAIT, get your puppy seen immediately. Stomach acids interact with these metal objects and cause zinc or lead poisoning. String is another dangerous object when swallowed and requires you to seek professional help.
  • If you’ve seen the pet swallow something he shouldn’t but it doesn’t pass, or the puppy begins vomiting, retching without result, won’t eat, looks or behaves distressed, or repeatedly coughs, seek help immediately. Any object, even tiny ones, potentially may lodge in and block the intestinal tract.

Symptoms Of Swallowed Objects

Diagnosis can be based seeing the puppy swallow something or based on symptoms. It’s confirmed by X-rays or other diagnostics like an endoscope to determine the exact location and size of the blockage, and sometimes to identify the object itself. Specific signs depend on where the blockage is located and the type of object.

  • An object caught in the stomach or intestines causes vomiting which may come and go for days or weeks if the blockage is not complete and food can pass around it.
  • A complete blockage is a medical emergency that results in a bloated, painful stomach with sudden, constant vomiting. The dog refuses food and immediately throws up anything she drinks.
  • Signs of zinc toxicity (from coins) include pale gums, bloody urine, jaundice—a yellow tinge to the whites of the eyes or inside the ears—along with vomitingdiarrhea, and refusal to eat.
  • Lead poisoning from batteries can also cause teeth grinding, seizures and hyperactivity, loss of appetite and vomiting.
  • Copper poisoning has similar signs plus a swollen tummy.
  • String-type articles may be caught between the teeth in the mouth, with the rest swallowed.


Never pull on the visible end of the string–either out the mouth or hanging out the puppy’s rectum. String and thread are often attached to a needle or fishhook that’s embedded in tissue further down the digestive tract. Pulling the string at your end could further injure the intestines, and kill the dog.

Intestines propel food using muscle contractions called peristalsis that move through the entire length of the intestine (kind of like an earthworm) to help push the contents through.

But when a foreign object like a string is caught at one end, the intestine literally “gathers” itself like fabric on a thread, resulting in a kind of accordion formation. The result is sudden severe vomiting and diarrhea, and rapid dehydration. Your veterinarian should evaluate any blockage situation to determine the best course of treatment. Surgery is often necessary to remove the obstruction.

Veterinary Treatment for Swallowed Objects

If the blockage is not promptly addressed, the resulting damage may become irreparable. Sharp objects may slice or puncture the bowel, and obstruction may interfere with blood flow to the organs and cause bowel tissue to die. Peritonitis is the result in either case and usually kills the victim.

Once located, the object is removed. The veterinarian can sometimes do this with an endoscope down the puppy’s throat or the other direction up through his rectum, or with surgery. Any internal damage is repaired. If surgery can correct the problem before peritonitis sets in, most puppies fully recover. Should tissue die, the damaged sections of the intestine may be removed, and the living portions of bowel reattached; these puppies typically have a good prognosis.

Most puppies outgrow indiscriminate munching. The best course is preventing your dog from swallowing dangerous items. Choose dog-safe toys that can’t be chewed into tiny pieces, and supervise object play. Anything a child would put in his mouth is fair game for puppies. Puppy-proof your home by thinking like your dog, so that you won’t be caught off guard when your dog eats the rubber bumpers off the door stops.

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Dogs Swallowed Objects: Symptoms & First Aid for Dogs Eating Objects — 16 Comments

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  3. hello i am very worried my saluki puppy (4 months ) had decided to nick myunderwear yesterday morning as i tried to remove from her mouth she had literally swallowed them ive looked through her poo but but they are not there ….i dont know how to induce vommitng she hasnt had the urge to be sick nor cough and she had a poo too. her poop seems a little softer than normal what do i do/ can i do ?

    • Hi Tammy,

      For some reason, may dogs love socks and underwear! If it’s been more than 2 hours, vomiting won’t bring it up. In most cases, foreign objects pass in the stool in 24 to 72 hours, so the fabric may still be in transit. As long as she’s not feeling in distress, you may be able to wait it out — a Saluki pup has some good size so it may be okay. But I’d still call the veterinarian and ask for specific advice, too. We’ve had the same issue with our big pup lately, stealing socks. It turns us into more vigilant pet parents, good luck!

  4. My dog is not eating or drinking since last night which is abnormal and he does not feel good. I have a tiny piece of rubber that covers a usb port on my phone (maybe 1/4″ long x 1/30″w) he vomited a very small (smaller than and eraser head) piece of the rubber and I am very concerned. Should I panic or wait a day or two?. A new pet owner of a rescue dog soon to be three years old (he survived the boarder nightmare and escaped Mexico.)

    • Call your vet and ask. The size means it probably will pass, and it’s too late to induce vomiting. If he shows pain (hunched back) or tries to vomit or eliminate without success, then go to the emergency vet.

  5. Thanks for pointing out that the pup must be taken the vets immediately when the objects have a sharp part. I guess I will seek a vet now since the object he swallowed might have that part. I did not see what it was since I was busy with work and online meetings this afternoon when it happened.

  6. Hi,

    My dog ate 5 used soft discs, (menstrual substitute for pads and tampons.) I’m extremely concerned that these will not pass through and my boyfriend insists that we wait until he poops. Have you had any experience with a dog eating these? What should I do?

    • Please take your dog to the veterinarian immediately! You are right, they may not pass. The doctor may be able to prompt the dog to either vomit them up or retrieve with an endoscope if they’ve not yet passed into the intestines. Should they become lodged in the intestines, that may mean emergency surgery. Call the vet and get your dog seen NOW!

    • Hi Joseph, I’m sorry that I just got this. If the stick was chewed into small enough pieces, it should pass. By now it would be in the intestines. Watch for “hunching” behavior (arching the back) or straining to defecate, which are signs of distress. Puppies do eat a lot of things they shouldn’t. If this happens again, it’s always a good idea to feed a large meal to help pad any sharp bits and help it pass through. If concerned about it, you can induce vomiting immediately but that won’t work after this amount of time. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet for advice.

  7. Our dog swallowed a small cloth ball (size of a golf ball) stuffed with poly foam 3 days ago while at another house. My husband is convinced it will pass but I’m concerned. She has had regular bowel movements for last 3 days and is eating ok… but it’s got to go somewhere and she has not passed it in her feces yet. Am I being paranoid?

    • It’s a very good sign that your dog continues to eat and defecate with no problem. Usually objects end up in the stool within 72 hours (longer for heavy or large objects). Sometimes soft fabric objects are hard to see in the stool, too, so she may have passed it. I’d check with the vet for an opinion just to be sure, though.

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