You've been playing fetch with your dog's favorite toy, but suddenly he doesn't come bounding back with it in his mouth. When you investigate, he's gnawing on it. Suddenly it disappears into from his mouth and down his throat. Depending on what kind of toy it is, this might be a medical emergency. No matter what, if your dog ate a toy, that requires a call to the vet to get advice or an appointment for X-rays, an ultrasound, or endoscopy to get an image of where the toy is and what kind of hazard it presents.
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Toys that pose choking hazards
Big dogs and small toys don't work well together because tiny toys can slip beyond your dog's teeth and lodge in her throat, possibly impeding breathing. If your dog ate a toy appears to be choking on it a toy, first gently feel around in her mouth to see if you can easily pull it out. Do not try to reach down the throat because you may push it farther down, possibly making a bad situation worse.
You can try to give your dog the Heimlich maneuver. If you have a small dog, make sure he is on his back. Using your palm, push in and forward in the area just below the rib cage. For larger dogs, the maneuver can be done if he's standing or lying on his side. If he's standing, wrap your arms around belly from above.
With your fist, push up and forward. For a dog lying on his side, squeeze his abdomen upwards with one hand while the other is placed on his back. After doing the Heimlich, check his mouth to see if the toy has popped up from his throat. If you are unable to dislodge it, this requires an emergency trip to the vet.
Toys with strings
Another peril is if your dog swallowed a stuffed animal or ate a soft toy that is made of rope or string. You may see part of the string, but the rest has gone down his throat. Resist the urge to pull on the string to try to pull up the rest of the toy. This could injure her throat or esophagus, and possibly internal organs depending how far down the string has descended.
Toys in the stomach
Some toys that are small or that have been chewed up can end up in your dog's digestive system. Do not give your dog anything to induce vomiting, as the toy could get stuck on its way back out. If your dog swallowed a stuffed animal or other toy, it could obstruct digestion, possibly not allowing food to pass from the stomach or through the intestines. In this case, surgery may be required.
If he chewed up a plastic toy, shards of it could perforate the intestines. This could lead to an infection of the lining of the abdomen called peritonitis, a potentially fatal condition.
Preventing future accidents
It's important to be present while your dog is playing with her toys so you can make sure she's not chewing it into pieces or has the whole thing in her mouth. Buy toys that are too large to fit completely in her mouth, and keep an eye on them to ensure pieces haven't been chewed off.
Before allowing your dog to enjoy a new toy, take off any pieces like strings or eyes that she could loosen while chewing. Dogs may particularly like attacking and destroying a squeaker in a toy, and if this piece becomes loose, it could pose a choking or swallowing hazard.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.