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The number of dog visits to the Vet or the Vet Emergency Room rampantly increases during the holidays as do the number of posts on dog forums from people asking for advice about what to do about the dog that as swallowed a foreign body.
Over the holidays people get busy. Dogs may not getting the amount of exercise that they usually get and they expend energy by getting into trouble. Or perhaps they may not have sufficient supervision so they tend to get into far more trouble than usual. Maybe that new Christmas toy (the one that was not recommended for hard chewers) got destroyed and parts of it swallowed. Whatever the reason, now your dog is sick because of what he swallowed. What can you do??
When In Doubt, Go To The Vet
The best and the safest thing you can do is to take the dog to the Vet as quickly as possible so they can x-ray the dog’s abdomen to make sure that whatever was swallowed can be passed safely through the intestine and bowel of the dog. Large objects, pointy objects, or sharp objects will not be able to pass through “normal channels” of elimination. These will most likely have to be surgically removed to avoid blockages and intestinal perforations. This is a serious problem and failing to give your dog immediate help can cost him his life so please treat this issue seriously.
But what happens if you know exactly what your dog swallowed and it was not large, pointy, or sharp? What if it was a face cloth, a sock, or some stuffing from a toy that is now stuck and causing stomach distress in your dog? Is there anything that you can do from home?
Yes, in these cases, there is something that you can do to help eliminate the stomach distress and to help your dog pass the small foreign (relatively harmless to the dog’s bowel) object.
BUT ….. DO NOT TRY TO USE THIS OR ANY OTHER METHOD TO PASS A LARGE OR DANGEROUS ITEM(S) THROUGH YOUR DOG’S DIGESTIVE SYSTEM AS YOU WILL CAUSE LETHAL DAMAGE TO THE STOMACH AND BOWEL!
This method should only be used for very small pliable items that have been swallowed but are now not moving through the digestive tract. And only use these methods if you are absolutely positive what was swallowed (as in you actually watched him swallow it). If you are at all unsure, take the dog to your Vet ASAP. Don’t just guess and hope that you guessed correctly.
Help Move The Foreign Body In Your Dog’s Stomach
Especially if your dog has been trying to dislodge the item by vomiting, your dog needs lots of water. The more water you put through the dog’s system the more water logged the soft swallowed item becomes and the better the chances are that it might come out along with some soft stool. You might even try getting extra fluids into your dog using some of the Chicken Soup For Dogs that you have frozen in your freezer.
2. Feed Soft Foods
This is also a great time to feed foods that you know give your dog soft stools like yogurt or soft canned dog food ( canned dog food contains about 75% water). Do NOT feed dry kibble as this will only cause more problems because the kibble will absorb the liquid in the stomach. Push fluids and soft foods however you can get them into your dog and then see if the item will become dislodged in the next 24 hours.
3. Feed A Petroleum Jelly Sandwich
Yes, you read this correctly. You can make a Petroleum Jelly Sandwich for your dog using soft white bread smeared with this product to help lubricate the stomach lining and intestine. The soft white bread will form a big gloppy bolus in the stomach that may help to nudge the foreign object along.
First, give your dog about a tablespoon of Petroleum Jelly on its own to coat to help lubricate the lining of the stomach and intestine. Your dog won’t care for the taste much so you will have to make sure that you smear the jelly as far back on his tongue as you can. The body heat will help to melt the jelly and it will enter into the stomach. It will behave like peanut butter and will be hard for your dog to spit out this substance. Sometimes the Petroleum Jelly will make your dog throw up and bring the foreign object up. Either way the swallowed object gets removed from the stomach.
Then about an hour later follow up and use about 1 tablespoon of Vaseline per 10 pounds of dog weight to make the Petroleum Jelly sandwich and feed the dog the sandwich. The earlier addition of the Petroleum Jelly will coat the stomach lining making it easy for the white bread to help “push” the object through the gastric passages. If the object has still not passed in 24 hours then you must take your dog to the Vet to be x-rayed and treated.
4. Use Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm is a great product to have on hand for dogs with digestive issues or to use for dogs who have swallowed something small but cannot pass it out of their digestive tract.
Slippery Elm Bark (Ulmus fulva) – The soft stringy inner bark (never the outer bark) of this tree can be used to treat a host of gastric problems in both dogs and people. It can also be made into a poultice and applied externally to treat external skin issues.
In the gastro intestinal tract, the tannins in Slippery Elm act to coat the mucosa, to soothe, and to lubricate the lining of the digestive tract. Its “astringent” nature helps to bring down inflammation of the GI tract. This herb can be thought of as a natural “Pepto Bismol” that is safe for dogs.
Note: Actual Pepto Bismol should not be given to dogs as it contains salicylate (Aspirin).
When To Use Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm can be safely used to treat ulcers, gastritis, colitis, and other inflammatory bowel problems. Because this bark is high in fiber, it also means that it can help to normalize GI function. The high fiber content means it can be effectively used to treat both diarrhea and constipation, much like when feeding pure pumpkin puree.
Slippery Elm is also great to use if your dog has swallowed a small but safely passable item but is having trouble passing the item. This herb will help to soothe the inflammation of the stomach lining while lubricating it to help facilitate the evacuation of the foreign body.
Remember: this only applies to small and safely passable swallowed foreign bodies. If your dog has swallowed an object that is sharp, jagged, large or impassable, a stomach lubricating product should NOT be used. Your dog will need immediate Vet care to remove the foreign object.
Contra-indications For Using Slippery Elm
While this herb is safe to use for most dogs, because it is somewhat high in magnesium, it is NOT RECOMMENDED for use in dogs who already have an elevated urinary pH and who may already be at risk for stones (struvite crystal formations). High pH from magnesium only lends itself to creating an environment conducive to the creation of more stones or crystals. Also, pregnant or nursing female dogs should avoid ingesting this herb.
How To Use Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm can be used in a number of forms:
- As a dry powder mixed with water to make a thick mucilage that can be added to food,
- Fresh or dried root (reconstituted with water) to apply as a poultice to external wounds,
- An herb Tea made from whole but ground up inner bark,
- A powdered supplement in a capsule.
Instructions For Using the Different Forms of Slippery Elm
Dried Herb (powdered)
Slippery Elm is said to relieve inflammation of virtually any mucus membrane so use 1/4 teaspoon mixed with cold water for each 10 pounds of body weight. This mucilage can be mixed into food daily until the inflammation has subsided.
How To Make Slippery Elm Teas
There are two ways to prepare this tea using the whole ground herb or the powder; a faster method, and a longer, stronger, more potent brewing method. The difference is the longer brewing method will yield a thicker gelled substance that may be more potent and easier to feed or to hide in food.
1. The Simple Tea Method
Place the correct dosage of the dried herb, based on the weight of your dog, in a mug and add 8-12 oz. of boiling water. Instead of water, you can also substitute the boiling liquid from Bone Broth or from the Chicken Soup for Dogs recipe that I shared with you. Allow mixture to cool. If using Powdered Supplement Capsules, crack open the capsules and add the contents to the mug. Do not add the used gelatin capsule shells to the tea.
2. The Longer Brew Tea Method
To make a more potent and thicker cup of tea, make sure to use whole (ground and dried) Slippery Elm herb (follow the amounts listed in the table below) but simmer the mixture in a pot on the stove for 10 to 20 minutes. Once cooled, this mixture should yield a much thicker “tea” that is not only more potent but much more easily administered to a protesting dog.
Tricks to Help With Administering This Tea
- You can easily disguise this tea within other foods to help with issues of palatability. You can mix this tea into soups, canned food, or even baby food if your dog is quite ill but needs the calorie and nutrition.
- If your dog is not in a weakened state, rather, he just has a belly ache or he swallowed a foreign object, then you can add this tea to yogurt, cottage cheese or some other soft food to aid moving the foreign object along out of the body.
- If you are using Slippery Elm to help with some other forms of inflammation, this tea can be poured over your dog’s regular food.
Table for Slippery Elm dosages using Dry Powders, Brewed Tea, or Supplement Capsules (as per the recommendations made by the Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer)
|A. For dogs 20-50 lbs||B. For Dogs 50-100 lbs||C. Dogs Over 100 lbs|
|Dry Powder = 1 teaspoon||Dry Powder = 2 teaspoons||Dry Powder= up to 1 tablespoon|
|Tea = 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, 1 to 3 times daily||Tea = 1/2 to -1 cup, 1 to 3 times daily||Tea = up to 1 cup, 3 times daily|
|Supplement Capsules = 1 to 2 capsules, up to 2 to3 times daily||Supplement Capsules = 1 to 2 capsules, 3 to 4 times daily||Supplement Capsule = follow the adult human dosage on packaging|
Take Precautions BEFORE A Swallowing Hazard Occurs
You can avoid this situation entirely by diligently checking your environment for swallowing hazards. An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
- Check the inside and outside environment for potential problem items that might be swallowed by your dog. In the same way that you would baby-proof a home and yard for a small child, dog-proof your home to keep your Snow Dog safe.
- Check your dogs’ toys often for sign of wear.
- Toss out any inappropriate or broken toys before any of their parts become swallowed.
- Make sure that you are giving your dog toys suited in both size and chewing hardness for your dog.
- And if you have young children in the house, please make sure that their toys are not left where your dog can have access to them.
As always, we welcome your comments or stories regarding this topic. When we share our stories we may be helping someone who is currently struggling with their Snow Dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.