As the weather warms up, you’re most likely spending more time outside with your dog. Going for long walks, taking trips to the dog park, or going on hikes are all fun, but if your dog is a street snacker, they can present a few dangers.
Read on to learn what to do if your dog eats something off the street. We’ll also look at which common items to watch out for on your walks, and how to help prevent your pup from scavenging for food outside.
4 Steps to Take if Your Dog Swallowed Something Outside
How you care for your pup will ultimately depend on what they’ve swallowed. In many cases, your dog will be fine, except for some mild digestive issues, but other times may be more serious.
Here are 4 steps to keep your pup safe if they’ve swallowed something hazardous:
1. If Your Dog Swallowed an Object, Call Your Veterinarian Immediately
Don’t try to remove the object from your dog’s throat or make any sudden changes before you consult your vet. You may do more damage than good.
Call your vet and explain the situation to them. They will be able to assess how dangerous the situation is and tell you what your next steps should be.
Your veterinarian may tell you to monitor your dog’s behavior from home, or you may need to head to an emergency vet as soon as possible.
2. Check for Signs that Your Dog Is Choking
If your dog has swallowed a large object, like a chicken bone or a stick, there’s a chance the object can be lodged in their airways, leading them to choke.
Watch for signs that your dog is choking. If their airway is partially blocked, they may start to cough or retch, or they may paw at their mouth.
If your dog’s airway is completely blocked, the choking may be harder to notice. In these cases, your dog won’t make any sound at all. That’s why it’s important to watch their body language and look for signs of struggling.
If your dog is choking, take immediate action – don’t wait to call your vet. If you can easily pull something from your dog’s throat, do it. But if it’s lodged too deep, pulling it out can be dangerous.
Instead, use the Heimlich maneuver, just like you would on a choking person. The method will depend on the size of your dog, but all of them involve using a thrusting motion to dislodge the object and eject it quickly from the throat.
3. If There Is a Bone or Object Lodged in Their Throat, Don’t Pull it Out
If your dog isn’t choking, don’t try to remove any objects from their throat – especially if it’s a bone or stick that can easily splinter. It’s tempting to try to help your dog as quickly as possible, but you can end up damaging their throat or esophagus.
Take your dog to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to carefully remove the object after your pup is sedated to minimize any risk of additional injury.
4. If Your Dog Swallowed Something Poisonous, Contact Poison Control
If your dog has swallowed something that you know or suspect is toxic, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435, in addition to calling your vet. They can give you better guidance on whether what your dog ate was poisonous and what your next steps should be to protect them.
They’re available 24/7, so they will always be your best resource in poison-related emergencies for your dog.
Common “Street Snacks” to Avoid
While it would be better if your dog didn’t eat anything off the ground outside, some items are more dangerous than others. Here are the most common items to keep an eye out for on your next walk:
- Food wrappers
- Fruit pits
- Chewing gum
- Hair ties
3 Ways to Prevent Your Dog from Eating Objects Off the Street
The best way to help your dog is to prevent them from eating objects off the street in the first place. While that’s definitely easier said than done, here are 3 tips to help keep your pup safe:
1. Work on Impulse Control
Teaching a “leave it” command and developing your dog’s impulse control is helpful for more than just stopping the street snack bar. It can help create healthy boundaries in your home, make meeting strangers easier, and prevent many dangerous situations.
To begin working on “leave it”, start at home with a treat in your hand. Hold your palm open with the treat exposed and wait for your dog to go for it. When they do, close your hand. The more you do this, the more your dog will understand that going for the treat is not the most effective way for them to get it.
When you can open your hand without your dog trying to get it, praise them and reward them for their impulse control. Once your dog has mastered this technique, you can increase the difficulty. Try putting treats in front of them, dropping them from a distance, or moving the treats around. As your dog gets better, you can take the training outside.
2. Monitor Your Dog Closely
Of course, it can be tough to constantly watch your dog’s behavior. But watching for potential hazards along your walking route and diverting your dog’s attention away from them is the most effective way to prevent them from swallowing something dangerous.
It can be helpful to walk in lower-traffic areas where you know there will be less debris or trash along the route while you work to strengthen your dog’s impulse control.
3. Consider a Basket Muzzle
Muzzles often have a negative association, but they can be very helpful training tools for your dog.
With a basket muzzle, your dog still has plenty of room to drink, breathe, pant, and engage in normal behaviors comfortably. The basket simply acts as a guard to prevent them from picking up items on the ground.
If you do use a muzzle, it’s important that you use a basket muzzle and make sure it’s properly fitted. Because walks are physical exercise, your dog needs to be comfortable and able to fully open their mouths to pant and cool themselves off.
Should You Be Worried if Your Dog Eats Something off the Street?
Luckily, in most cases when your dog eats something off the street, they will be perfectly fine. They may experience some mild digestive issues, but there will be no immediate cause for concern.
If you monitor your dog’s walk behaviors and contact your vet right away if they pick up something harmful, there should be no reason to worry about your pup’s health.
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