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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Caution to Pet Owners – Pet Treats and Toys May Cause Problems for Your Pet

With the holiday season upon us, many pets will receive gifts such as pet treats and toys including chew toys. Each year FDA receives a small number of reports of adverse events associated with pet treats. Pet owners should be aware that occasionally, pet treats and chew toys may cause choking or blockage problems for their pets and may want to monitor their pets for signs of potential problems.

Pet treats that are meant to be consumed are most digestible (edible) when chewed into small pieces; however, rawhide type treats can become very slippery when wet and larger chunks can then become lodged in the back of the animal’s mouth or throat, causing gagging, choking, and even death. Through chewing, pet treats and toys may become broken into pieces that may become lodged in your pet’s airway or gastrointestinal tract.

The sign(s) that your pet exhibits may help your veterinarian determine where the obstruction has occurred. If pieces of treats or toys are stuck in the back of the throat, your pet may become frantic and you may notice signs such as drooling and choking. Severe airway obstructions are not uncommon, and they should be considered life threatening. This calls for an emergency visit to your veterinarian.

If your pet experiences an esophageal obstruction, you may notice repeated gulping and drooling. Also, your pet may regurgitate undigested food after eating.

If something is stuck in your pet’s stomach or intestines, your pet may vomit, exhibit depression or a loss of appetite, have abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Chronic obstructions may lead to severe illness and a life-threatening abdominal infection (known as peritonitis.)

If you observe your pet swallowing a piece of a holiday decoration, toy, or small piece of a pet treat, it is important to contact your veterinarian for medical advice. Your veterinarian may take x-rays to evaluate the problem. Veterinarians may also use other procedures (called endoscopic procedures) to remove objects from the esophagus and stomach. Your veterinarian may also need to perform surgery for intestinal blockages.

Please remember to always keep small objects from within reach of your pets and contact your veterinarian if you have concerns about something your pet has swallowed or exhibits symptoms of having a problem.