Almost every pet owner has experienced that moment of shock when they realize their pet has eaten something it shouldn’t have. Whether it’s a sock, screw, underwear, rock, or even a toy alien, our pets frequently stick their noses into things they shouldn’t. In veterinary medicine this is referred to as foreign body ingestion, and it is one of the most common conditions we receive claims for. We studied our data on foreign body ingestion and compiled our findings in this report to reveal the truth behind what pets eat, why they eat it, and how much is costs to treat the pet afterward.
According to the findings, this erroneous snacking has resulted in over 6,000 claims and a total payout of over $4.2 million toward our customers’ vet bills.
Giving a bone, ball or toy to your pet is often harmless, yet claims for foreign body ingestion continue to increase every year. In 2015 we paid almost 10% more foreign body claims than in 2014. An apparently innocent bone was the cause of our highest foreign body claim payout of over $21,000 to help a dog in California who needed treatment for a tear the bone caused in her small intestine.
Based on the data, the claims are most frequent among young cats and dogs less than three years old. However, it can happen to any pet at any age. Though we saw the highest frequency from pets under three, there is also a small increase that occurs later in a pet’s life around 8 years old and another small increase when pets are around 14 to 15 years old. Pets over 8 years old account for almost 10% of the total amount the company has paid toward vet bills for foreign body ingestion causes.
We also found there are a few specific dog breeds that just can’t help their unusual snacking habits including Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, and a mixed breed of Golden Retriever and Poodle, also known as Goldendoodles. The top 5 breeds with the most frequent foreign body ingestion claims are:
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Doberman Pinscher
- Golden Retriever
- English Bulldog
It can cost a dog owner an average of over $1,400 annually for veterinary treatment of foreign bodies, but some cases turn into well over that number and it is steadily increasing year over year as the cost of veterinary care increases.
Cats Are In On It Too
Though cats account for less than 10% of our total foreign body ingestion related claims, when treatment is needed costs are nearly $2,000 annually. Cats also target objects that are more linear like string, yarn, and wire which is more dangerous as their bodies are smaller and it can become tangled in multiple organs. The costs to treat a linear foreign body can be anywhere from $800 to $6,000.
Cats however, appear to learn from their mistakes, as we see far less repeat offenders among cats than dogs. Dogs are 33% more likely than cats to repeat the act.
The Longer you Wait, the More it will Cost
Depending on the specific object a pet eats, the health risk and cost to treat a pet can be influenced significantly, and we found that the time spent to treat the foreign body impacted these factors as well.
It is important to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you can to avoid harming your pet as well as incurring additional expense. The data is clear, the longer you wait and as the object travels further along the gastrointestinal tract, the opportunity for complications increases and the cost to remove the object often increases along with it.
For example, an object caught in the mouth can range in cost from $100 to $900, while an object caught in the small intestine can be anywhere from $800 to $6,000. If the pet experiences complications like sepsis, a complication of an infection, the cost can be anywhere from $2,000 to over $10,000.
We receive claims related to foreign body ingestion daily. But as the seasons change, certain trends begin to creep up. For example, in October we see a spike in chocolate ingestion claims, a 71% increase compared to the previous six months of the year. This could be a result of the plentiful amounts of Halloween candy and chocolates that are readily available every October. The decor, trimmings, and food each season brings provides more opportunity for our pets to get into things they shouldn’t.
Why Do They Do It?
Dr. Denise Petryk, a veterinarian with Trupanion saw many foreign body ingestion cases at the emergency clinic she previously co-owned. The average cost estimate for her clients care ranged from $2,000 to $4,000 per pet. She recalls one case she was involved in with a dog who ate a dish cloth. The bill to remove the dish cloth and treat the dog came out to a grand total of $5,000.
Dr. Petryk listed some common reasons why a pet may be getting into and swallowing things they shouldn’t they are:
- Boredom. Is your dog getting enough exercise? If you have a dog and it is a herding, sporting or working dog, or mix of any of the three, they need tons of exercise. Long walks, playing ball, trips to the dog park are all ways to help your dog release some energy.If your pet is not getting enough exercise and stimulation, they will develop problematic behaviors including dietary indiscretion (eating socks, toys, and anything else they can find) and destructive habits (hole digging, fence or wall chewing).
- Attention Seeking. Your pet may need more attention. Maybe you should book some play time or snuggle time on your calendar to ensure your pet is getting the attention it needs.
- Opportunity. Pets also love opportunity. Our pets like things that smell like us. It reminds them of us so if we leave things where they can grab it, eat it, drag it around – they will take advantage of the opportunity.
- Behavior. Lastly pets may be getting into things they shouldn’t because of a behavior disorder or condition. Behavior disorders can include things like compulsive behaviors, separation anxiety, food guarding and resource guarding. For example, when they grab your underwear, as soon as they think you will get them and take the underwear away, they gulp them down so you can’t have it.
About the Research
Trupanion data is generated from over 5.5 million pet health records on over 400 cat and dog breeds across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico collected by the company since 2000.