Dog Toys and Bowel Obstructions

My heart aches for my friend and her five young children.

They just lost their 4 year old dog.

4 years old is much too short a life to live.

The worst part is that it could have been prevented, several times.

This article certainly isn’t to make anyone feel bad, so names and other facts have been changed.

Shaming people is never appropriate.

But, as a veterinary technician I could see all of the lifesaving signs that they missed

He Had an Obstruction

So what happened?

Unfortunately cancer and disease can strike at anytime.

I recently had another friend whose one year old Corgi mix died of cancer.

We are told that mixed breeds are healthier, but even the mixes can suffer and die for disease.

But this dog chewed on and swallowed something he shouldn’t have, and it is something that is well known within the veterinary world to kill dogs.

It was a rope toy. dog toys and bowel obstructions, puppy training

Many toys pose a danger to dogs that shred them.

Even more pose a danger to dogs that eat and swallow pieces of them.

Luckily, for some dogs and owners, the average toy or piece of toy will pass.

However, very rarely do rope toys or pieces of rope toys pass through the bowels without causing an obstruction.

The strings ball up in the stomach or in the small intestine and it begins to bunch and kill the intestines as things cannot pass through.

If caught early, surgery can remove the rope and save the life of the dog.

If it is not caught early enough, the bowels begin to die and necrosis sets in and causes infection and sepsis.

What Can You Do?

If you have a young dog, or a dog that swallows anything but food, DO NOT BUY YOUR DOG A ROPE TOY!

If you dog allow your dog to play with a rope toy, only do so while he is directly supervised!!

I NEVER leave my dog with a toy or item (sock, bed, blanket etc.) that he might shred and consume.

I am definitely an advocate of using toys in your dog training program to build drive and also to add fun to regular dog training and you can read more about that here and here. Just be careful which toys you choose.

Signs of a Bowel Obstruction

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetence
  • Lethargy

So often a dog will vomit a little bit and act a bit lethargic and his owner won’t notice.

Perhaps he will vomit his meal, or act not interested.

He may have diarrhea.

His owners may try and treat it with over the counter medications or probiotics.

They may even use medication previously given to the dog for inappetence or diarrhea.

The problem with these approaches is that you only have a matter of a couple of days to take your dog to the vet and have it diagnosed.

If you ignore it, or try to treat it yourself; your dog could die.

So, if your dog isn’t acting quite right; take him to the vet and allow them to run diagnostics, it could truly save your dog’s life!


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  1. Claire Beach says:

    I appreciate the information you share,my Havenese loves to chew paper and plastic I often wonder if he swallows it and would he pass it


  2. Finn says:

    Our young, beautiful, clever German Shepherd puppy had to have surgery a week ago as a result of a blockage to the bowel caused by a rope toy. She made an initial recovery but became sick again a few days ago, despite daily monitoring by her original vet at our insistence. It now looks like she has a second blockage, despite the fact that we let her nowhere near a rope toy )or anything else that might cause a blockage) in the days following her surgery. All we can presume is that there was yet more chewed string further back in the bowel that the vet missed during the first operation. She is just about to go in for a second surgical examination (with a new vet) but is too weakened by the initial surgery to be capable of surviving the removal of yet more sections of her bowel. At best she’s been given a 10-20% chance of survival. Utterly, awfully heartbreaking. We are devastated and filled with guilt at the needless pain and suffering caused to her. Yet even after all what has happened to her, her original vet still insists that rope toys are okay for puppies to use as long as they are carefully supervised. This is is complete and utter rubbish. Our puppy was never left alone to play by herself yet no-one ever warned us of the dangers of these toys. My advice to all dog owners- not just those with young puppies- is to put your dog’s rope toys in the bin and then warn your fellow dog lovers of the dangers of having them in the house.


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