Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 30, 2013

Household items can present risks to pets

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A toy poodle that was rushed to the vet after swallowing a tube sock. A Great Dane that had to be operated on three times for eating his owner's shoulder pads.

These are just a couple of examples of the emergency cases Dr. Karen Halligan has seen involving household items that seem harmless until an animal decides to munch on them.

Hundreds of pets undergo surgery every year to remove small articles of clothing and other objects from their stomachs and intestines, said Halligan, author, TV consultant and director of veterinary services for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles.

"It's very common in private practice and in large institutions to be removing non-food items out of dogs and cats," she said.

It also can be very dangerous.

Ingested clothing and fabric items, for instance, won't show up on X-rays. Within 48 hours, a pet that has consumed a piece of clothing will develop symptoms like vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever and depression.

If caught early, a vet can remove the item from inside the animal and everything will be fine. If not, the pet's intestines will start to die because blood can't get through, Halligan said. Removing the intestine is an option if the obstruction is eventually found.

If left untreated, the problem can be fatal because of dehydration or bacteria leaking into the stomach, causing peritonitis.

"We had one Great Dane. Three times we had to cut him (open) for his mother's shoulder pads. He loved his mother's shoulders pads," Halligan said.

And surgeries to remove or dislodge things that pets swallow are not cheap.

"We are talking $2,500 to $5,000 at the least," Halligan said.

Socks are probably the most popular pet-pilfered pieces of clothing across the country. They're especially irresistible to pets after they've been worn. "It's the scent that attracts them," Halligan said.

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