For us, summer is about fun times spent with family and friends. And much of those fun times revolve around eating! And after a good backyard BBQ, our garbage can sure smells pretty good to our pets. We know that there are many foods that we eat that can be toxic to our pets, including onions, raisins, grapes, avocados, the pits from cherries and peaches, etc. The list of foods that we eat safely that are quite dangerous for our pets to consume is a long one, but it is important to remember that there are even more food risks out there for our pets that we need to be aware of.
Remember that the relationship between humans and dogs goes way back. Our connection started with dogs learning to live close to human settlements to scavenge food scraps from us. And they still do that to this day! Our dogs have a far more keen sense of smell than we do. They can smell the yummy bits of aluminum foil that are covered in grease and sauces, the bones left over from the BBQ on the weekend and the cobs from last night’s corn roast, that are all hanging out in our kitchens in the garbage can! Our little food hounds can’t help themselves, this smells amazing to them and they will go to great lengths sometimes to get a taste of our left overs!
For us at the vet clinic, when we think of things that we see more of in the summer months, one of the first things to come to mind is ‘garbage gut’. This term refers to a dog that has had a ‘dietary indiscretion’ and has gotten into the garbage and now physically feels awful! Bits of aluminum foil, cooked bones and corn cobs can all make our dogs quite sick and can even cause bowel perforations or obstructions that would require emergency surgeries to correct the problem. Sometimes Fido will get away with a belly ache or perhaps some vomiting &/or diarrhea. However, sometimes when you come into the kitchen and find the garbage can demolished, that mess will be the least of your concerns as your pet may have ingested something that will make him/her very ill.
Imagine if Fido ate cooked bones and those bones are sharp and are causing a lot of pain as they slowly pass through the digestive tract. Now imagine, one step worse, image how easy it would be for a sharp bone from your pork chop or T-bone steak, to puncture through the thin wall of the intestine and cause a lot of pain and potentially deadly peritonitis (infection/inflammation in the abdomen).
Something that people often forget about, but are a huge summertime risk, especially for our canine companions, are corn cobs. They taste sweet and the dogs love to chew on them. They easily break off into chunks that can be swallowed. And those chunks are pretty much the perfect size to get down into a loop of intestine and cause an intestinal obstruction (imagine a cork in a bottle).You’ll often see your dog stop eating and drinking, and have vomiting and lethargy. A bowel obstruction does not just go away, it requires surgery to remove the obstruction and to repair that section of bowel.
It your pet gets into the garbage and then seems ‘off’ or not himself and is reluctant to eat or drink, you need to get him in to see us right away. Letting that linger can sometimes take a problem from bad to worse. Dehydration is always a concern when an animal is vomiting, but in the summer this can become a much bigger problem, far quicker than it would at other times of the year.
Remember bones can be a huge risk to your pet’s health; we see dogs sick after eating them far too often. And corn cobs are yummy, but they seem designed to cause intestinal blockages in our furry foragers! So as you are enjoying your summer, keep this information in the back of your mind and take extra precautions to guard your garbage cans! A little bit of prevention can save a lot of discomfort for your pet and a lot of worry for you!