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Pets Eat the Darnedest Things

Posted December 22, 2014 in Dog Diet & Nutrition

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Your family vet probably has lots of incredible stories about items found inside patients’ stomachs and intestines. And certainly, when a vet meets another vet, they love sharing crazy stories.

“Have you read about this snake who ate two light bulbs – whole?”

“How about this Lab who ate 14 golf balls? And the Boxer who swallowed 200 rocks? And the Pit Bull puppy who swallowed an 11 inch steak knife?”

Pets swallow the darndest things: diamond rings, batteries, toys, marbles, machine parts, nails, bones, t-shirts, staples, oh my! As far as I'm concerned (as a surgeon), I remember removing the following foreign bodies from various pets:

  • From the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach): bones, -real or fake-, and chew toys.  Interestingly, terriers and small-breed dogs are prone to this specific condition. One dog ate a fish hook that moved out of the esophagus and ended up in a lung. All of these patients required open chest surgery.
  • From the stomach: an entire leather leash; pieces of linoleum; a mop; many rocks; tampons; chewed up tennis balls; and recently an entire, unchewed Kong toy the size of your fist! Hair ties are a classic in cats – usually a whole bunch of them at once.
  • From the small intestine: countless "linear foreign bodies", i. e. anything that looks like a string. This includes floss, ribbon, rope, rubber bands, bread ties, tinsel, and any similar object that can be batted around and swallowed. Then there were sewing needles, usually attached to a string; toys; corn cobs (a classic); and in the underwear department: socks, G-strings, briefs and panty hose.
  • There was also an iguana who ate a piece of wood that got stuck... Interesting surgery - and anesthesia!
  • From the large intestine: although foreign bodies that reach the large intestine can often be expelled, this is not always true. We once removed a sock stuck in a dog’s colon
  • There were also countless UFOs (Unidentified Foreign Objects), usually mixed with debris, hair, grass and poop. Identifying them is not always easy... Trust me, it’s a smelly job. But somebody’s gotta do it...
  • I also remember Susie, an old Lab who had eaten her daily thyroid medication

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at