Dog choking risks include this stuff toy torn apart by this brown Dachshund

Toxic Ingestion and Choking Risks for Dogs: Why, How and Avoiding Them


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Your dog choking or eating something they shouldn’t and getting sick is a major medical worry. In fact, in recent market research done by PD Insurance, it was listed as the number one health concern among pet owners. And no wonder – it’s the most common claim type among dog owners.

Dog choking hazards

Dogs risk choking and other ingestion issues not just from well-known hazards like food chunks and toys, but a whole list of objects.

Our claims manager listed off the top of her head some non-food foreign object ingestion claims she’s dealt with recently. They include a fishing hook, highlighter, meat tray pad, dishwashing cloth, oxygen absorber, nail, tennis ball, rocks, kitchen twine, tinsel, shoe insole and (extremely often) socks!

A not-so-unusual recent claim we received was for a Labrador called Blu who got hold of a pool cover and swallowed a fair portion of it. Blu’s owner and PD Insurance member Mark Urlich told us: “From what I know of Labs, they like to chew stuff. I’m pretty sure for Blu, this incident was a combination of being bored and just being a typical Lab.”  

“We knew something was wrong as he became very gassy and stopped going to the toilet despite the gas. He also went off his food but was eating grass like he was a cow.” (Find out why dogs eat grass)

One afternoon Blue threw up a ton of grass that was fermenting in his gut. Mark took him to the vet, who took x-rays, emptied his stomach and removed the pool cover pieces that were causing blockages.

“Fortunately for us he didn’t require surgery as she got it all out of him by inducing vomiting. After a few days he was pretty well back to normal thankfully,” says Mark.

We all need to keep an eye on our chew-happy dogs, no matter what their age!

dog choking

Toys and dog choking

All of us like to spoil our dogs with toys. But be careful, some toys can pose risks to your pup. The most common toy choking risks come from those that have some sort of stuffing inside.

Once your pup has ripped open that stuffed Santa Clause you’ve bought them for Christmas, they may decide to gobble up the foam or cotton inside. Too much of it can cause complications – whether that’s actual choking or ingesting so much an obstruction forms that can’t be digested and passed.

Dogs can die if this situation isn’t remedied. It’s a really serious position for your pup to be in so seek vet assistance quickly.

Another ingestion risk comes from rawhide. More and more, vets are dissuading owners from giving their dogs rawhide treats because rawhide can splinter and get stuck in their throat. Rawhide also breaks apart in large chunks instead of in tiny pieces, posing further risk. We answer is rawhide bad for dogs here.

If you want to spoil your dog with a toy, opt for an extremely durable non-toxic rubber that doesn’t break apart when chewed. West Paw is known for making very safe toys from a material called Zogoflex – a completely non-toxic, BPA and latex-free material that’s extremely elastic (can stretch 400 x its length). They’re available for purchase in Australia here.

Pssst.. have a puppy that’s chewing just about everything in sight? Check out our guide: Puppy Teething and What To Do About It.

What food is poisonous to dogs?

Ingestion hazards that result in toxicity are, of course, objects that are poisonous. These include certain foods, plants, and poisonous land and sea creatures.

When it comes to food, these are some of the major hazards for dogs:

  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Xylitol
  • Various nuts (e.g. macadamias, almonds, walnuts and pecans)
  • Cooked bones
  • Raw bones that splinter (e.g. chicken and turkey)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Fruit pits (e.g. cherries, peaches and plums)
  • Raisins
  • Apple cores
  • Grapes
dog choking

What plants are poisonous to dogs?

In terms of plants, be sure to check your garden for these dangerous flora:

  • Lilies
  • Succulents (particularly ‘sticks on fire’ or pencil cactus)
  • Azaleas and rhododendrons 
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daffodils
  • Peace lilies (a very popular indoor plant)
  • Devil’s ivy (also a hip indoor plant)
  • Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora)

Check out our list of things that can poison your pet for more.

Other dog choking and ingestion hazards

As mentioned, poisonous sea and land creatures are a danger too. Be sure to look out for blue bottles, sea snakes, sea slugs, urchins, and jellyfish. In fact, the beach has quite a few hazards, including sand! Yup, you heard us right, even sand can cause problems if your dog gobbles down too much.

Be sure to read our guide on how to keep your dog safe at the beach if you’re planning a beach holiday.

Closer to home, be super careful of areas where someone has laid out rat or insect poison. Eating a mouse, bird, bug or other creature that’s died from poison can be possibly fatal to your dog.

Other things bad for pets that can cause dog choking or other dog ingestion risks are household items like medication, essential oils, deodorants, or soaps, washing detergent and diffusers.

Insurance for dog choking, poisoning, obstruction and more

Even if you’ve done due diligence and put all potential hazards safely out of your dog’s reach, accidents and illnesses can still happen. 

That’s what pet insurance is for. By taking out an online insurance policy via our quick and easy process, you’ll have protection for those times when things don’t go quite to plan.   

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