The 5 most common non-food objects swallowed by pets

Posted by Dr Dog. March 8th 2017. Tagged: Pet health and Pet information and ownership advice

Dog with a sock

Anyone with a dog, cat, puppy or kitten will know what inquisitive creatures they are. They will investigate anything and everything they encounter, and that sometimes involves pets swallowing objects they really shouldn’t!

Thankfully, most objects our pets choose to swallow are small enough to be digested or passed without causing any damage. However, every once in a while our curious critters bite off far more than they can chew. Remember Macie, the Staffie puppy who ate an 8-inch knife and somehow lived to tell the tale? Lucky pup!

(Image via PDSA)

Macie’s case was extreme, but many objects swallowed by pets can cause harm. These are the usual culprits: 


Yep, our pets just can’t resist a stray sock or pair of knickers when they’re feeling mischievous. Socks and other stretchy fabrics can cause complications in the digestive system and get stuck in the intestines. Keeping your socks and underwear stored out of your pet’s reach will keep this danger at bay. Laundry baskets and washing lines are also prime targets for four-legged underwear thieves, so keep an eye on these.


Other commonly swallowed items are string, yarn, thread or dental floss. Like socks, string can also cause the intestines to become bunched up and blocked. As most cats can’t resist playing with string, stay vigilant when they’re playing and never to leave them unsupervised with it. Even something as harmless as grass can present a danger to cats if they decide to swallow it, as the worried owners of tabby cat, Marley, found out recently. Luckily they spotted his persistent cough and took him to the vet where he made a full recovery. Read Marley’s full story here.


Both dogs and cats have been known to swallow bones of varying sizes. Cats who catch mice and birds often ingest small bones, while dogs have been known to swallow entire bones or large fragments given to them as treats by well-meaning owners. Bones and bone fragments of all sizes can become stuck in your pets’ throats or digestive tracts, or even cause punctures and damage to internal organs, so you should never deliberately give your pets bones to chew on.


Small plastic toys and balls are fair game as far as our pets are concerned; they’re theirs to chew on after all. Unfortunately, this often means the odd chunk of plastic or occasionally an entire toy or ball finds its way into the stomachs of our pets, where they can sometimes cause blockages or discomfort depending on the size and shape. Avoid toys with bobbles, buttons or any other detachable adornments, and never let your pet play with balls or toys which are a size that can be easily swallowed!

 Food wrappings

Often laced with delicious and intriguing smells, our food wrappings can be irresistible to our pets, who will often swallow first and ask questions later. Small pieces of paper or foil will often be digested or passed without injury, however, large pieces of wrapping – particularly cling film – can become twisted in the gut and cause severe issues. If your pets are particularly inquisitive, make sure you use a pet-proof bin for disposing of all your food wrapping and kitchen waste to avoid any unwanted raids.

Spot the signs

If your dog or cat has swallowed something they shouldn’t have, there are certain signs you should watch out for. These include:

  • Vomiting
  • Choking
  • Respiratory distress
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Lethargy

If you notice any of the above symptoms and suspect your pet might have swallowed something, consult your vet immediately.

Our pets are always getting themselves into mischief, but you can be better prepared for their next misadventure and get help with costly vet fees, just in case the worst should happen. 

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