Help! My dog ate a toothpick!

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My dog ate a toothpickToday, I want to talk about a pretty serious matter with you guys – the ingestion of  objects.
Let’s be honest with each other, even the most cautious and watchful owner will probably at some point run into such a situation: Doggie has swallowed something it shouldn’t have.
If we are lucky it is a small, blunt object that is likely to pass the stomach and intestines without causing any harm or even better it is digestible and not poisonous.

But most of the time – that’s just Murphy’s law – it will be something that raises concern, meaning we are talking about something that is either sharp/pointy or big or both of it (worst combination) and can cause harm “inside”.


The situations we can run into are so manifold that it is impossible to speak about the matter as a whole, which is why I just want to share what I have learned from what I now call “our recent toothpick scare”.
Generally speaking – well, here IS something general indeed – the outcome of a wrongful ingestion of objects largely depends on the ratio between the size of the swallowed object and the bodysize it is then going to have to pass through.

Big dog + small object = better chances of being lucky. Small dog + bigger object = 🙁

So, here’s what happened in our toothpick scare

I have learned another valuable lesson: Whenever you are sure that you have stashed away things that your dog should not eat or that can even become dangerous for it in a safe place – think twice!

Owning a Bull Terrier is basically like living with a toddler that never grows up. And the measures to be taken for that individual’s safety are the same – kid or dog, it doesn’t matter. We always need to be aware that they just do stupid things and some of them so stupid we can’t even imagine. So, at least we can try and take precaution for the things we CAN foresee.
Well, on that particular day my foreseeing eye must have been blind because Mila managed to steal the rest of a sandwich I had taken home from a restaurant.
It was bold – and a little unusual for her – to steal the boxed food stacked away in a seemingly safe place. I would probably had answered it with a short scold and then close the case.
However, the sandwich parts had been held together by a pair of those wooden toothpick-like small pointy sticks. And that made a whole world of a difference.


I caught her in the act, but much of the sandwich and, of course, the toothpicks were already eaten. Absolutely scared I searched the entire area around for pieces to be sure, and found nothing, which confirmed my worst fears: she had eaten the toothpicks.
My initial impulse was wanting to reach into her mouth and just plug the toothpicks out. But there was no point in doing that because, of course, they were already out of reach.
I quickly contemplated inducing vomiting to bring everything back up again. Luckily, I did NOT do that, because I read later that it is NOT a good idea to make the dog vomit. The swallowed pieces can severely damage the oesophagus during their way back up and cause more harm taking THIS way out.

So, if this happens to your dog, I would resist the urge to induce vomiting.

The incident happened while we were on the road, rushing to an ER was complicated.
So, I first started searching the internet on my phone for information on first aid.

My greatest fear, of course, was that the toothpicks could puncture her intestines and cause internal bleeding. I hoped that she had eaten slow enough to at least crack the picks into pieces so they would not be big enough anymore to puncture anything.

Hubby suggested to put another toothpick (we still had one) into a bottle with juice to see if the pick would soften and how fast that would be. Juice contains acid, which is by far not as strong as the stomach acid. So, if something happened there that would have been a very comforting sign.
To make this part of the long story short: The result was not comforting for me at all because the wood hardly softened at all over two days in the bottle.

After reading a lot around on the internet I knew that the signs I had to watch out for were
– weakness
– lack of appetite
– walking in a crouched posture, which would point to stomach aches
and sleeping more than usual.


I read that some people had faced amused reactions and felt ridiculed when taking their dog  to a vet after it hd eaten a toothpick. Others described really serious scenarios.
Some stated that stomach acid will resolve those small wooden pieces. Well, we already have busted that myth.

I really wanted to do something right now and stumbled over … Sauerkraut.
Originally from Germany I am no stranger to Sauerkraut. I don’t like it very much but I know it well. The sources suggested to feed 1-2 Tablespoons full of sauerkraut with each meal and provide plenty of water. For dogs who did not take the sauerkraut as is is there were several suggestions to make it more tasty, such as adding beef broth, for example.
The reason for feeding sauerkraut over a few days is that the chopped strings of kraut are assumed to wrap the indigestible object, buffering pointy ends and stimulating digestion. The goal is to bring the foreign object through the digestive system as quickly as possible without doing harm. I bought a glass of sauerkraut at the next grocery store we could reach and only an hour after ingestion Mila had her first sauerkraut meal.

During the next three days Mila ate 2 tablespoons full of sauerkraut with each of three meals a day.
I watched her poop like a surgeon. Luckily, I am used to pick up after her. So, feeling the soft mass through the potty bag was somewhat bearable.

Then, on the third day after she had eaten the sandwich, finally!!!!, I felt the sticks.

There were two smaller and two larger pieces indicating that she had crushed them. They were still hard and felt in no way softened by her stomach acid (Busted the 2nd).

But I did not notice any blood and Mila was happy as ever.
She had just been very lucky.

I noticed that she is more interested in things on the ground lately when we are outside and was able to stop her from picking something up more than once. In the past she had been merely interested in anything on the street. That seems to have changed.

So, I am double alert now when we go outside and I do think twice when storing away things she is not supposed to get. And, well yeah, I remove ANY toothpicks from sandwiches now before I take the first bite. NO toothpick in a sandwich will ever enter our car or home again! 

I hope that this story is in some ways helpful for you guys to see what can happen and what can help.
Of course, every case is different!
And the message of this post is NOT to spare the vet and just use sauerkraut – please don’t.

In any case of doubt in such a situation I would ALWAYS recommend to see a vet with the dog, if possible, no matter if they laugh.
You can always use or discuss measures like the sauerkraut with the vet. I think this was a pretty serious situation and my dog was VERY lucky!!!

Best thing, of course, is to not let it happen in the first place by watching their every step.

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