My Dog Ate a Rubber Band – Should I Be Worried?

Dogs frequently swallow objects they should not eat. Here’s some information on what to do if you suspect that your dog may have swallowed a rubber band or other hazardous object.

Some rubber bands or other common objects in your dog’s environment are probably small and smooth enough for him or her to swallow and pass on through his or her digestive tract with little or no health or safety consequences. But, you should be concerned about objects your dog may swallow that can become stuck in the throat or intestines or elsewhere in the digestive system and cause a serious or even deadly outcome.

Knowing how to tell if your dog has ingested a rubber band or other dangerous object and what to do if he or she has swallowed such an item can save your dog’s life.

How Frequent and How Serious is the Problem of Dogs Swallowing Rubber Bands?

Dogs like to explore with their noses and their mouths. Often, the things they are exploring are the very things they should not have in their mouths. There are many household objects that dogs frequently swallow, and each one presents its own unique risk to your dog.

Some are toxic, presenting poisoning hazards. Others present internal puncturing risks. Other items, like rubber bands, present a choking hazard and risk of intestinal blockage.

Rubberbands are ubiquitous and are easily dropped on floors or left in places that our dogs can easily access.

  • Many are in the form of hair ties (a.k.a. ponytail holders) that are dropped on the floor or left within a dog’s reach on nightstands, vanities, etc.
  • Dogs find colorful rubber bands as parts of some children’s toys.
  • There are often plain rubber bands of all sizes that come on mailed packages or around bundles of mail envelopes received.
  • Rubber bands are also commonly used in home offices and for various household utility purposes in kitchens, garages, and storage spaces.

Veterinarian Dr. Greg Cunningham of Detroit Dover Animal Hospital has this to say regarding pets choking on rubber bands, “The material gets stuck in the intestine, and the intestine works upon it. The term’s called plication, and it can lead to a rupture of the intestine track.”

Why Do Dogs Swallow Rubber Bands and Other Dangerous Objects?

Dogs and other animals don’t necessarily recognize the dangers of swallowing objects. If an item is fun to play with or looks interesting to them, it doesn’t occur to them not to eat it. Rubber bands are just one of the countless types of dangerous common household objects that dogs swallow.

Others include plastic toys, bones, jewelry, string, Christmas decorations, household décor items, yarn, clothing, feminine products, batteries, sticks, coins, rocks, rawhide, golf balls, and on and on. Swallowing such things frequently causes dangerous obstructions in the digestive tracts of dogs and other pet animals.

So home pet safety inspections should go beyond rubber bands to include safe placement of all such hazards. Any object that is small enough to fit inside your dog’s mouth but big enough to become stuck in its mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, or intestines presents a danger.

Signs That Your Dog Has Swallowed a Dangerous Object

Often, people do not see their dogs eat anything that might cause them to be at risk of choking or intestinal blockage. So, it is important to be aware of indicators that your dog may have swallowed a dangerous object. Some signs of distress are more obvious than others. Here are some important signs and symptoms to watch for that can alert you that your dog may have ingested a hazardous object:

  • Choking
  • Gagging (retching)
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Licking lips repetitively
  • Refusing to eat
  • Painful or distended abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy

Just a change in your dog’s disposition may be the only clue that something is not right with your dog and that he or she may have swallowed a rubber band or some other dangerous object. If you suspect that something is wrong with your dog and that he/she may have ingested a rubber band or other hazardous object, you should respond urgently.

Time is of the essence if your dog has swallowed an object that may be harmful or fatal to him or her. Quick action can enable your veterinarian to more easily extract the item your dog has ingested before it reaches the intestines. Once ingested items reach the intestines, they cause a potentially fatal blockage that may require urgent surgery to remove.

So, if you suspect your dog has swallowed a rubber band, call a veterinarian immediately. Signs of complications from consuming a rubber band or other dangerous object appear very quickly in dogs, typically within24 to 48 hours.

Emergency Action When Your Dog has Swallowed a Rubber Band or Other Dangerous Object

If sudden choking is affecting your dog’s respiration, you should take emergency actions:

  • If your dog is choking, check its mouth for foreign objects. Look at the roof of the mouth, between the gums, under the tongue, and at the very back of the mouth. A rubber band or string stuck between teeth can end up being partially swallowed.
  • If there is a rubber band or string, or a hard object like a twig or bone stuck in the dog’s throat, do not attempt to pull it out. Take the dog to the veterinarian immediately. The vet can sedate the dog so for the safe removal of the object.
  • If you can see a rubber band, cord, string, thread, etc., hanging from the dog’s mouth and extending into the throat, do not try to pull it out or cut it. Doing so can damage the dog’s throat, esophagus, or other sensitive internal structures.
  • Only attempt to remove a rubber band or other strand from your dog’s mouth if it has not been partially swallowed and it moves easily.

Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs

Do not attempt to pick up a large dog. Doing so may cause more internal damage to the dog because of its size. Follow these steps for a large dog:

For a Large Dog

Do not attempt to pick up a large dog. Doing so may cause more internal damage to the dog, because of its size. Follow these steps for a large dog:

1.      If the dog is standing:

a.      Place your arms around the dog’s stomach.

b.      Clasp your hands together, and make a fist.

c.      Push firmly upward and forward at the same time, just behind the rib cage.

d.      Lay the dog on its side afterward.

2.      If the dog is lying on its side:

a.      Put one hand on the dog’s back for support.

b.      Place your other hand on the abdomen, just below the dog’s rib cage.

c.      Thrust upward and forward at the same time.

For a Small Dog

1.      Perform the procedure with the small dog lying down:

a.      Carefully lay the dog on its back.

b.      Put the palm of your hand on the dog’s abdomen, just below the rib cage.

c.      Quickly push inward and forward at the same time.

AFTER YOU COMPLETE THE HEIMLICH MANEUVER FOR DOGS:

After Step C in any of the above three versions of the procedure, check the dog’s mouth for an object that may have become dislodged from the throat, and remove it.

See additional situational alternatives for applying the Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs.

What Will Your Veterinarian Do If Your Dog Has Swallowed a Rubber Band?

If a dog swallows a rubber band or other string-like foreign object that goes undetected, it can become an obstruction in the intestinal tract, which can cause a bacterial infection called peritonitis. It can kill surrounding intestinal tissue, a condition called necrosis, or the blockage can obstruct food from passing through the dog’s intestines.

If you think your dog has ingested something it shouldn’t, call your veterinarian, and be prepared to give information such as how long ago the dog swallowed the item and any symptoms your dog is exhibiting. If you are sure your dog ate an object and he or she is exhibiting symptoms, take your dog immediately for emergency treatment.

Methods your veterinarian may use to assess and treat a possible foreign object in the digestive system vary widely, based on the individual situation. Depending on your dog’s circumstances, your vet may approach diagnosis and treatment by:

  • Sedating your dog and simply extracting the object from the dog’s mouth or throat.
  • Induce vomiting to expel the object.
  • Performing a physical examination of your dog, including taking X-rays, to discover whether or not your dog swallowed an object, perhaps what it appears to be, and whether it is causing a blockage in the intestines.
  • Performing an ultrasound or endoscopic examination to determine the likelihood of the object passing through the dog’s digestive tract without intervention by the vet.
  • Perform an endoscopic removal procedure or another form of extraction to retrieve an object without injuring the esophagus.
  • Perform gastrointestinal surgery to remove a larger object or an object in the intestinal tract, necessitating removing large sections of the dog’s bowel. These surgeries can be extremely risky in the most serious cases, and some pet dogs may not survive.
  • Recommending surgery of some type, depending on what the object is and its location in the dog’s digestive system.

When pet dogs undergo endoscopic procedures or exploratory surgery to remove a rubber band or other foreign object, pet owners can incur veterinary costs of hundreds to thousands of dollars.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Swallowing Rubber Bands or Other Dangerous Objects

Every year, veterinarians throughout the U.S. see many cases of pets that need treatment because they have swallowed rubber bands, socks, parts of dog toys, children’s toys, or other foreign objects. “Anything like that, the pet can consume and we worry about it causing an obstruction in their intestinal tract,” Dr. Cunningham stated.

However, consistently meeting the challenge of keeping an insatiable pet dog from putting any imaginable object in his or her mouth can be beyond a pet owner’s ability. Veterinarians’ recommendations for helping save your dog from emergency vet visits due to swallowing rubber bands or other dangerous objects include:

  • Keep doors closed, or use baby gates to prevent your dog from accessing various areas.
  • Keep rubber bands and all other objects your dog could swallow off floors, low tables, chairs and other furniture, and countertops.
  • Secure cabinet doors with baby-proof latches.
  • Watch your dog while walking him/her with a leash. Many pets will find irresistible things on the ground to put in their mouths along the way.
  • Dog-proof your house by eliminating or securely storing rubber bands, string, and other objects that present swallowing hazards to dogs.
  • Get down on hands and knees on the floor at your dog’s level, and inspect low areas of your home from your dog’s view of things. Find all missing pieces of board games, lost coins, tiny toys, keys, hair ties, and other errant items that present swallowing hazards for dogs.
  • As your dog grows taller, include inspections of higher areas, like kitchen and bath countertops, dressers, desktops, etc., in the ongoing inspections of your pet’s environment.
  • Always supervise while your dog is chewing on treats or toys.

Published Warnings From Veterinarians Involving  Rubber Bands

On Nov 27, 2013, the Rainbow Loom toy manufacturer published a request for their customers to share information about the toy to keep pets safe. The tiny rubber bands had been easily falling onto floors where children were playing with the toy, and numerous cases of dogs swallowing those rubber bands were reported.

The Humane Society site has posted a warning for pet owners to keep rubber bands away from pets because they can be dangerous if ingested.

Search online using the criteria “dog swallowed rubber band” for additional advice and information to further inform yourself on this topic.

Conclusion: Prevention Is The Solution

Dogs use their mouths to learn about the world, so it may not be possible to eliminate all temptations from your dog’s environment. Still, being proactive about pet safety regarding hazardous ingestible objects is the most effective approach to keeping your dog safe from swallowing rubber bands or other hazardous items. Think about pet safety first. Keep things that are naturally attractive to dogs picked up from floors, low furniture, and table surfaces that are within your dog’s reach.

As the veterinarian, Dr. Cunningham, who was interviewed regarding the Rainbow Loom rubber bands issue pointed out, the many rubber bands in the toy may only cost a small amount, but it can cost a dog owner thousands of dollars for emergency surgery and other veterinary treatments if a dog swallows one and becomes ill. It can also lead to the shocking death of a beloved pet.

So, again, if your dog shows signs of swallowing a foreign object like a rubber band, take emergency action using the instructions above. Do not wait to see if the problem will somehow resolve itself. Doing so has often led to much more extreme distress for pet dogs, much higher veterinary bills, and sometimes a sorrowful loss for pet owners.

If you are unsuccessful in remedying the problem of a potentially serious swallowing incident quickly on your own, call for emergency veterinary help. To prepare for such a situation, find out in advance if your veterinarian offers 24-hour emergency veterinary services or which of the nearest facilities he or she recommends for any need you may ever have for emergency medical treatment of your dog.

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