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

Swallowed objects kill pets every day. With Thanksgiving around the corner, think about potential hazards to avoid. Eating foreign objects often causes only minor problems in dogs and cats. In the best cases, the swallowed cat toy or sock (yes, Bravo did that more than once!) gets vomited up or passes in the stool. However, it’s important to recognize swallowed objects’ symptoms, and how you can save your pet. Refer to this article on why dogs suck objects.

For those who prefer audio or video, here’s my YouTube contribution on the topic.

Stick Danger

We had a scare last summer when the new pup, Shadow, became enamored of sticks. He enticed his big buddy Bravo (100+ pounds at the time) to play tug. While the little twigs Shadow tooth-pruned weren’t any problem, Bravo chomped a 1/2-inch stick, and got the piece lodged between his teeth across the roof of his mouth! Thankfully, he came to me and allowed me to open his mouth and pry it out. Ouch! and dangerous!

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 prove 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, corn cobs, 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 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: Within Two Hours

swallowed objects first aid

Find life-saving help in this book that I pray you’ll never need!

  • If they swallowed the item 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. 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

  • After two hours, the object will have passed into the intestines and vomiting won’t help. Most objects small enough to move through the digestive system pass 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. 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 to 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 that frequently affects cats and kittens, and when swallowed it 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 on seeing the pet 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 often catch between the teeth or wrap around the base of the tongue in the mouth, with the rest swallowed.


Cats often become victims of swallowed string or thread after playing with it. Once they start swallowing, they can’t stop. 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 cat or 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 catches 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

The blockage results in irreparable damage if not quickly addressed. Sharp objects may slice or puncture the bowel. 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.

The doctor removes the object once located 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 the bowel reattached; these puppies typically have a good prognosis.

Preventing Problems

Most puppies outgrow indiscriminate munching, but dogs and cats of all ages may be affected. The best course is preventing your dog from swallowing dangerous items. Choose pet-safe toys or dog chews like Bully Sticks 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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76 thoughts on “Dogs Swallowed Objects: Symptoms & First Aid for Dogs Eating Objects

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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?

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  9. Hi, my 1 1/2 year old golden retriever chewed up a child’s toy car over Christmas. A week later she vomited up a piece of it (about the size of a thumb). A week after that another same size piece. She is eating, drinking, peeing and pooping normally. Cause for concern?

    • I’d run this by your veterinarian. It could be she’s already passed most of it in stool and there’s no harm. But if she’s still vomiting pieces, I’d be concerned part(s) of the toy are stuck somewhere inside, and could cause damage/problems later.

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  11. Hi, I just got a puppy two days ago (not really puppy; 8m chion mix). I took her home and she ate an entire meal and drank a lot of water the minute I set her down in the kitchen. I took her out and she pooped and peed fine the first day, but then she wouldn’t eat much of her dinner after I brought her inside. The catch is that before I actually stepped inside and took her harness off, she tried chewing a twig from my maple tree that was on the porch. Now, all of Sunday she only pooped and peed once, but today and last night, she didn’t eat anything, but has been drinking out of hands only and throwing up treats and kibble, as well as mucus and bile. I don’t know what to do; either go to the vet or wait 1-2 days. Please let me know. Thank you.

    • Hi Jayden, Please take your dog to the vet. New places, people, and food can all affect appetite. But she may also have something else going on (something else she ate, or an illness previously exposed, etc.). It’s always best to have the new dog checked by the vet anyway, so please don’t wait any longer. Congrats on your new pup! I hope she feels better soon.

  12. Dear Amy,

    My 55 lb. dog ingested pieces of a hollow Chuckit ball with the biggest piece being about 1” wide and 2.5” length (maybe a bit bigger) 3 days ago. A small has passed in the stool yesterday. It’s day 3 and she is eating and eliminating normally and shows no signs of blockage, but l can’t find the big piece in her stool. In the past, she has swallowed a cat toy and vomited it out 2 weeks later. I came across an article in which the vet claims that ‘if the object is greater than 1.5” in diameter, it’s likely to stay in the stomach,” so the vet was able to induce vomiting for a dog who ingested something over a week ago. I have also come across stories of dogs passing foreign objects weeks later. And stories of dogs passing objects as big as light bulbs with the help of lubricant. How much likely is that? Is it safe to induce vomiting with h.p 3% at home?

    In my dog’s case, could it be that 1) The piece is too big and remains in the stomach and thus induced vomiting might work or 2) The piece is slowing making its way in the small intestines, causing partially blockage, because she is still pooping fine.

    I am adding fiber like squash and olive oil in hopes that it would help keep the piece moving. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Since my dog is not showing any signs of obstruction, can I wait it out?

    Also, does rubber show up on Xray?

    • Hi Ferg, Anything I say here would be speculation and every situation is different. Yes, the dog could pass the larger item later. Or it could gradually close off/block part of the digestive tract. At this point, after three days, I wouldn’t think it able to be vomited up, but a veterinarian *might* be able to use an endoscope and remove anything visible that way. My concern would be that if it stays in the stomach/digestive track it could impair absorption of nutrition over time, or even cause a “dam” situation that also caught other smaller items. It’s not unusual for dogs (or some cats) to ingest multiple items over time, and only have problems later–at which time surgery reveals massive amounts of swallowed objects. So my best answer and advice is to see your veterinarian. At this point, you’ve gone beyond “first” aid, and need the diagnostic skills and advice of someone able to figure out exactly what’s happening. Good luck!

  13. Hi, can an object be too big to pass to the small intestines and remain in the stomach for days? If so, does that mean induce vomiting would work in that case? My dog swallow a piece of rubber and it’s been 3 days and no signs of it in the stool but she is eliminating normally. The flat piece of rubber is about 1” by 2.5”. My dog is 55 lb. How likely is it that it would pass? I am adding fiber and olive oil / coconut oil for lubrication. Since she is acting normal, I hope to wait it out. I have read stories of dogs passing objects weeks later. How likely is that?Also is rubber visible on Xray? I have heard contrasting opinions. Thank you.

    • My concern would be that the digestive acids could interact with the rubber, and cause it to swell so it isn’t able to pass in either direction. Inducing vomiting might actually cause a choke issue. Please see your veterinarian!

  14. My senior Mini Pin swallowed a nectarine stone. We took him to the Emergency/Trauma Vet Hospital and they induce vomiting, with no luck. Our boy has CHF and high risk for endoscopy so we waited to see if he could pass the stone. He continued to eat well (I made him chicken and rice) and potty fine. On the 10th day after ingesting, he wasn’t interested in breakfast and that afternoon he vomited up the stone. He ate his dinner that evening, but hasn’t done more than nibble at his food today. Could the stone have harm his throught coming back up? Or could his tummy still be upset? The stone came out while, so I’m not too concerned about poisoning, just how to help him from this point.

    • Hi Candy, Wow–I’m so glad that your boy got rid of the nectarine stone. As you’re aware, they can not only block the “innards” but also poison the pet. Vomiting up after 10 days means it likely was too big to pass the other direction. Certainly, the irritation in the gut likely remains, and bringing it back up could have scraped or irritated his throat. There’s no way for me to know or predict exactly what’s going on, so a call to the vet would be my best recommendation. Please keep me posted!

  15. hi my name is Shanika my puppy swallowed a stick I think he is eating but not feeling good he vomit blood a lil but now his laying down I don’t have money right now for a vet so what should I do

    • Oh my dear, please call a veterinarian anyway and ask if you can perhaps pay on time. Meanwhile, follow the suggestions in th blog. Paws crossed for a good outcome.

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  17. My 80lb+ dog ate some or all of a rubber ball toy and I didn’t know until yesterday when he vomited large pieces of it. He didn’t want to eat before that, but has since. He vomited again tonight with smaller pieces of ball in it. He otherwise seems fine but not sure how much he may have swallowed. Wouldn’t he show signs he was sick if something still in there?

    • Hi April,
      Wow, I’m glad he vomited the pieces. If there are still small pieces retained, he might not show signs of illness as long as food and waste continues to pass unobstructed. So I’d call the vet and ask for advice–and meanwhile, monitor his intake (and output). Depending on the size of the ball, you’ll likely be able to tell how much potentially might remain. I hope he stays well–we have to really watch those big guys!

  18. Hello,

    Our 9.5-week-old Cockapoo has been frequently chewing on a stuffed toy with short tufts of hair/fur that we bought at a pet store. An hour ago he gnawed off maybe 1 inch of the hair/fur and swallowed it. Maybe even less than 1 inch. A small amount. Should I be worried?


    • Hi Dara, congratulations on the new puppy! I d watch for it to be passed in his stool, and for any discomfort. But without knowing more, probably a small amount of fuzzy fur should pass without a problem.

  19. Hello. I am trying to find out what is wrong with my lab. She returned from vet with clean bill of health but she is still not right. She is not swimming anymore and not anxious to jump in the car w/ me all of what were part of normal routine. It started about 6 months ago. My question is about that same time she swallowed a fishwith fish hook inside. I took her to vet they xrayed her stomach the following day and said all clear. she eats normal, poops normal. is there something that hook could be caught on that has her laying around? She is not a complainer so I rarely know if she is hurt. No outwards signs. Blood tests are good, thyroid good and chest xray good.

    • Hi Tami, my best advice is to seek a consultation with a specialist, perhaps a veterinarian internal medicine specialist. I can only guess and I’m not a vet. The age and other factors will matter. Good luck!

  20. Hello. I have a 10 week old Miniature Schnauzer puppy thats 5 pounds and I think she may have eaten a 7/8 inch foam ball that is for a Nerf Rival gun. My nephew was playing with her and they were jumping and running around while I was cleaning up the few balls on the floor. I dropped one and it rolled to right where they were playing and under her and it looked like she may have swallowed it super fast cause I didn’t see it go anywhere else. I didn’t see her swallow it either but I couldn’t find it when I stopped my nephew and picked her up. A few minute later I found one maybe 10 feet away so its possible it got kicked across the room but that also could have been a different bullet. If she did swallow it, based on her small size do you think she could pass it. I don’t really have money for a Vet bill when I don’t even know for sure she ate anything but I also don’t want anything to happen to her.

    • Hi Nick,

      All I can suggest is to monitor eating and elimination to be sure everything is still moving normally through the digestive track. Foam is compressible so it’s “possible” it could pass, but there’s no way to know for sure. Don’t wait too long to call the vet if you see the signs of trouble mentioned in the blog. Good luck!

  21. He eat a rubber ball and we see a vetinary doctor and doctor prescribe to operate it and operate the doctor say only water to drink for5days .after 4days of operation he eat a cotton dip is any problem

  22. My five year old labrador had a major seizure this morning, in her movements two socks came up in vomit, could these have been the cause of the seizure?

    • Possibly, if the blockage caused some kind of disruption that impacted glucose intake, for example. But there may be something else going on. So it’s best to get the veterinarian’s opinion and diagnosis after an exam.

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  24. My 10yr old rottie ate whole oven stuffed roasted chicken 😆I noticed little red bubble sticking out wat should I do he’s not it pain at all seen alittle bone yesterday but nothing since worried now

    • A “little red bubble” sticking out of …where? My best advice is to ask your veterinarian about options, and meanwhile, monitor your dog’s bowel movements to be sure everything passes. If he begins to hunch his tummy in pain, or strains to go potty, or vomits, go to the emergency room. And wow–a whole chicken? My dog is jealous! Hope everything works out fine for your dog.

  25. My 8 week 4lb Dalmatian ate 2/3 of a baby wipe around 2 hours ago. Should I wait to see signs of distress (vomiting/diarrhea/sluggishness/ no wipes coming out in his poop) before taking him to the vet?

    • Please call your vet with a description of the ingredients in the baby wipe for advice. It depends on what’s in the wet components as much as the material and amount ingested.

  26. My 3 month old beagle is having trouble breathing. I can’t think of a reason why. I fed him food like normal, took him a bath, then he started gasping for air. I have used the same shampoo once before and no reaction. He doesn’t likes baths, but doesn’t give me a hard time either. He gags on and off and threw up blood once. He walks around very slowly and looks tired. When he tries to lay down his breathing gets faster.

    • Please call your veterinarian immediately! I don’t know what’s wrong but your vet is the best chance for your puppy. Throwing up blood is an emergency and can be caused by several things.

  27. Hi there. We think our puppy swallowed a toy a couple of weeks ago. It has a squeaker in it. No symptoms until a few days ago – vomiting and lethargy. Xray shows a foreign object with some brightly light areas. I am almost certain that it is the squeaker toy but the vet says unlikely because it has been weeks since pup ingested it. Vet says the object has moved down the GI tract, past the duodenum now. He is on IV fluids and medication. They have not done bloodwork yet to see if any metal toxicity. Should I ask them to? Can they do a scope to retrieve the object? Should we wait for surgery or is it a risk related to metal?

    • Oh no! Poor puppy. I’d rely on what your veterinarian says–certainly, you can ask if metal toxicity might be an issue. But most dog toy squeakers I’m familiar with are plastic or rubber. If the object has progressed to the duodenum, it’s probably not retrievable via endoscope (that’s usually used to retrieve from mouth/throat, esophagus, and stomach). Good luck with your baby.

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  30. Hello my dog had vomited after eating earlier on the day and when i went to sleep he vomited this little piece of wood which was really smooth around the edges and he has had an apetite still and he seems fine like always no abdominal pain etc
    I think that little piece was the only thing obstructing his stomach should i still call a vet?

  31. Hello Amy!
    My 10 pound maltipoo ate a small sock on Thursday. Our vet told us to take her home and monitor her but today is Sunday.. she is still eating and drinking, she is still having bowel movements but from time to time she will gag and try to vomit with no luck. Any suggestions?

    • By now, the sock will have traveled through the digestive track too far for vomiting to be productive. Since she’s still eating and drinking and eliminating, that’s good–the sock hasn’t blocked things. But if you’ve not seen it pass in the stool yet, I would follow up with the vet and ask for their advice for further help.

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  33. Hi Amy I have a 3 month old Chihuahua that has a chicken bone I believe it’s stuck in her little throat but it’s been like 2 days now I’ve tried everything too help her but today she seems 2 have turned too the worse she was getting up every few hours an eating a couple bits getting a tiny drink an would play for a few then she’d go right back too sleep now she acts like she can’t move she’s wheezing no coughing or puking an she has the sadest little face an with covid going on I have no money what so ever not one penny please tell me something too help her this little girl is MY EVERYTHING I LOVE HER MORE THAN LIFE ITS SELF ILL LOSE MY MIND IF SHE PASSES THANK U SO MUCH IN ADVANCE

  34. Hi Amy,
    My 8 year old Pitt mix ate something 2 nights ago, we woke up yesterday to find she threw up small, approx 2 inch long plastic pieces. She has not been able to keep food or water down since. I have a vet appointment in the morning but wondering how serious you think this is? I’m so worried she’ll need surgery to remove it!

    • Hi Ashley,
      I’m so sorry you’re going through this with your sweet Pitt. I really can’t guess about the nature of the situation, and paws crossed the veterinarian will be able to help you. If you can identify where the plastic pieces came from, and see how much remains (or doesn’t) that will help the doctor. Please also take the pieces that your dog vomited to show to the vet. Please let me know what happens!

  35. Hello- my puppy at a fabric scrunchie (whole) 3 nights ago. In the 10 seconds it took for us to follow up him and grab him from the room he managed to swallow it whole. He has not been in distress, has been pooping a lot, and normal, eating and drinking. No signs of distress. The vet said to keep watching him but should it be taking this long to pass? Is it possible to still be going to the bathroom like normal but have a blockage? He has not changed in any sense and still has so much energy. I just really want it to pass so I can stop worrying.

    • Wow–our pup ate a fabric softener/sheet once, and immediately began to vomit (it came up, thank goodness!). The material (synthetic) isn’t digestible so you should see it when it passes. But it may be “smooshed” up with the feces and hard to see. Your veterinarian is the best resource for your guidance, and what to do likely depends on the specific type of product. It’s very positive your dog hasn’t had any negative signs.

  36. Hello Amy. My 4 y.o. golden retriever ate half a dozen faux pearl beads from my hat 30 minutes ago. Shall I wait till he poos them out or take him to the vet? Thank you!

  37. Hello!
    My 7 month old beagle at a small plastic squeaker toy about 7cm around, he’s been pooping eating and acting completely normal. It happened around 3 days ago, I’ve been checking his poops and I don’t see anything. Not sure what to do at this point.
    Thank you

    • My standard answer–ask your vet. Some foreign objects can just “sit” there for a while, and allow the feces to pass. But later they can move and cause problems. It really depends on the formulatio of the toy, and your vet has the best idea of what to expect and how to manage this.

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