Aside from coming home and finding the stuffed bear you won at the carnival is missing a leg and the living room is full of white fluff, there are other signs that your destructive little puppy ate more than his kibble while you were away. While that fluffy stuffing may seem harmless, when your puppy eats it, there is a risk of it lodging in his stomach or intestines and causing an intestinal blockage, which can be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of intestinal blockage include vomiting, painful abdomen, lethargy, behavior changes, constipation or diarrhea and a loss of appetite. It typically takes food 10 to 24 hours to pass through the digestive system. Symptoms of a blockage can take time to develop. The severity of symptoms depends on the location of the blockage. For example, if the stuffing causes a complete blockage, your dog may be unable to keep any food or water down, leading to dehydration. If the object blocks the small intestine, the swelling of the intestines at the blockage site may cause stomach bloating.
If you suspect your dog has ingested toy stuffing or another object he shouldn’t have, contact your vet immediately. Do not wait for the object to pass naturally and do not try to induce vomiting without the guidance of the vet. Some objects can cause more damage coming up. In some cases of intestinal blockage, feeling the abdomen is all the vet needs to make a diagnosis. If he is still unsure, abdominal X-rays will be able to identify the obstruction. In severe cases where an obstruction has been left for a few days, damage to intestinal tissue from a lack of blood can cause tissue necrosis and eventually cause the intestines to rupture, leading to an infection in the abdomen as well as sepsis in the blood.
Treatment depends on the object ingested, as well as the location of the obstruction. If possible, the veterinarian may try to induce vomiting in order to remove the object. If this is unsuccessful and the object is in the stomach, endoscopy -- a large tube inserted down the throat -- will remove the object. If the object obstructs the intestines, abdominal surgery is the only available option.
The best way to avoid intestinal blockage is to monitor your puppy’s toy time and carefully select which toys he plays with while you are away. Look for stuffed toys that are designed for dogs, but do not assume that they are puppy-safe, even if they say they are. Just like a toddler, a determined puppy can get past puppy proofing. Limit access to stuffed toys when you are away. Instead, choose hard rubber toys or treat-filled toys to keep him entertained and safe when you are unable to supervise him. Let him play with the stuffed toys when you are home and able to keep an eye on him. If you have children, ensure that their stuffed toys are out of the puppy’s reach.
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