When Toxins are not the Problem

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When Toxins are not the Problem

When Toxins are not the Problem

Welcome to the fall!  Leaves are changing, temps are dropping, and we are all slowly making 

plans for the holidays.  This time of year, I am often asked to discuss what foods and plants can 

be toxic.  Toxic substances are found all around us, and toxicity can vary by species.  There are, 

for example, plants a goat can eat that would make a horse sick.  I can eat macadamia nuts, but 

my dog should not.

I think we all know to be careful with the common toxins; but I have recently been reminded that

many bad, even life-threatening, problems can be caused by items with little to no toxicity. 

Specifically, I am talking about foreign bodies – in your cat’s or dog’s stomach or intestines.

My puppy likes acorns.  And sticks.  And stink bugs.  There is no way I can interfere with the 

wide selection of things she likes to put in her mouth.  So, I’m careful about what she can get to, 

and about what’s around her when she’s unsupervised.  I think all of you do that as well; you 

make efforts to ensure that your animal family is safe and healthy.  But I get to see all the weird 

stuff animals manage to eat anyway. 

Toxic ingestions are often plants, insect or rat poisons, foods, or human prescription medication. 

These toxins can cause liver and kidney issues, or can impact the clotting cascade, or affect the 

nervous system.  Immediate and specifically targeted treatment is often necessary to successfully

help these animals.

Foreign bodies can be just as dangerous.  They typically cause a problem just by their very 

presence in the body.  They can get caught in the throat on the way down to the stomach.  They 

can stop in the stomach.  They can wind into the small intestine.  Depending on what the foreign 

body is, they can pleat up the intestines, they can block the flow of the guts, they can cause the 

intestines to twist up.  In a worst-case scenario, they can damage or even destroy parts of the 

intestines.  These are often – not always – surgical cases.

Foreign body surgeries that spring right to mind for me – the gravel taken from one dog’s 

stomach (about 5 pounds) which had bacon grease poured on it; the stomach full of unbelievably 

sharp carpet tacks a terrier thought looked tasty; the cat who had broken into her owner’s sewing 

box and eaten pins and ribbon.  Recently, another veterinarian in another state removed 8 pounds

of hair ties from a dog’s stomach.

The reason this is on my mind a lot right now is because of two recent cases we’ve seen.  A 

young puppy came in vomiting; no one had seen him eat anything strange.  It took a week of 

imaging and diagnostics and treatment to find the puppy had a stick running the length of most 

of his body.  Somehow, it had shoved down the throat, impaling the esophagus, lungs, the 

diaphragm, the stomach and into the abdominal cavity.  That’s a lot of damage.  In this instance, 

it took the skills of a boarded surgeon at a specialty practice to remove the wood and get the 

puppy back to his life.

In the past couple of weeks, we had a grown dog who decided water beads would taste fantastic. 

They were consumed in such a large quantity that they packed his intestines and could not pass.  

Surgery in this case was also necessary.  There are further details about this on our Facebook 

page along with pictures.

Please remember there are many potential hazards in the world around us.  It is important to 

learn about and properly manage potential toxins.  At the same time, it’s also wise to try to see 

the world how your animal does.  Much of what they ingest is something they were playing with;

and – at least at my house – almost anything resembles a toy

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