Leaves are beginning to fall… is your dog eating them and other objects?

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It’s starting to look like fall.  Leaves are falling, along with branches, apples, pine cones, and a variety of other things. Some dogs LOVE to find these natural objects and play with them, chew on them, or even eat them up.

While this might seem harmless, it reminds me of an odd situation we experienced with a dog years ago.

Almost immediately after his arrival for daycare we noticed he was licking and gagging quite a bit. We examined his throat, and found nothing. We were able to see on the roof of his mouth he had a piece of wood pretty deeply embedded in his gum tissue. It stretched like a bridge from one side of his mouth to the other. The wood was totally stuck in there!

Turns out over a week prior to that, his owner found him chewing up a fence post in her yard. She was a little concerned, but she never thought to look on the roof of his mouth to see if something was stuck. Poor doggy had wood lodged in his mouth for over a week! We ended up having to cut the wood in half in order to remove it from his mouth, as it was so embedded in the gums at that point. What a relief that dog must have felt, and us too!

Sure that’s a pretty extreme situation, but it’s not too uncommon for bad things to happen when dogs eat things they aren’t supposed to!

So how can you prevent your dog from eating sticks, rocks, or pine cones the next time you go out to play? Here are some useful tricks from Trevor the Pet Guy over at WhiskerDocs:

1. Use a leash when walking your dog outdoors. A leash gives you more control over where your dog goes and what he puts in his mouth.

2. Teach your dog to “drop it” using a better reward like your pet’s favorite treats every time your dog picks up a stick or other object that he shouldn’t.

3. “Leave it” is another good command to teach. You’d use this to stop your dog from even picking up the object in the first place. This one is a little harder to do. What seems to work best is to take something very tempting, like a favorite tennis ball, and roll it slowly in front of your dog. If you say “leave it” and he doesn’t go for it, he gets a yummy treat!

4. Be more actively engaged with your dog while you’re outside. Nothing works better than getting your dog’s mind on something else! Teach your dog to play fetch with appropriate toys like dog tennis balls (regular tennis balls designed for the sport contain dangerous chemicals to help them bounce) and actively engage with them while they’re outdoors. It works wonders to keep their minds off chewing and eating other things!

We think #4 is one pet parents often overlook, not only in their own yards but at the dog park as well. Often pet parents send their dog out the back door to spend hours alone.  While many dogs can get into no trouble at all on their own, you’d miss any digestion concerns at the very least. And the dog park can be a dangerous place when pet parents go there to socialize THEMSELVES rather than supervise their dogs… dangerous not only in regards to what your dog could be getting into, but also by not closely watching dog behavior and body language.

The above tips can work wonders, but in severe cases, a basket muzzle can be used. You’ll need to practice getting your dog used to a muzzle gradually and for short periods of time, but these can prove incredibly useful if your pet is too quick to grab and swallow things for the above methods to work.

Keeping sticks, rocks, acorns, and other objects out of your dog’s mouth will keep them out of surgery, so it’s worth putting in the training effort!

-Addie – Pet Play House