What Should I do if my dog Swallows a Foreign Object?
Help! My dog, Duke, accidentally swallowed a milk ring. Should I take him to my vet?
I field phone calls from people asking questions similar to this one every day. A receptionist or nurse will approach me and say, "Dr. Barchas, there's a client on the phone whose dog just ate . . ."
What comes next is highly variable. The dog may have eaten a sock, or a rock, or a part of a tennis ball, or part of an aluminum can, or a piece of hardware, or a pair of underwear, or a string of Christmas lights, or a box of garbage bags--to name just a few possibilities.
Ingested foreign objects can be dangerous to pets in a few ways. First and foremost, they may get lodged in the intestines and cause an obstruction. This creates a life-threatening surgical emergency. Also, foreign objects may contain toxins that can lead to poisoning.
When a pet consumes a non-toxic foreign object such a milk ring, there are two basic choices. The animal can be brought to the vet immediately to induce vomiting or perform endoscopy, or the animal can be monitored at home for symptoms of gastrointestinal obstruction (symptoms include vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, tender abdomen, and sometimes diarrhea) until the object passes in the feces.
I don't know what type of dog Duke is. However, if he is a medium or large sized dog, then the odds are high that the milk ring will pass through him without incident. Which I hope by now it has, since several days passed between when you wrote your question and when I received it. The dog who ate the string of Christmas lights passed them without incident (although I can't imagine what they felt like coming out), so odds are high that Duke can pass a small piece of plastic.
As always, the safest course of action in these sorts of situations is to call your vet. Many factors can determine whether a foreign object passes harmlessly through the intestines or becomes lodged and requires life-saving surgery. Your vet can work with you to assess the best course of action for your pet's unique circumstances.