Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Serious WARNING for Dog & Cat-Lovers!!

Photo Courtesy of Me
This toy doesn't look dangerous, does it? I didn't think so when I bought a nearly identical toy one year ago today. It was our dog Bridger's fourth birthday, and we wanted to throw him a proper birthday party with a cake and presents.

I was particularly proud of this present.

He loved it.

And it killed him.

I can barely write those words. I can barely see for crying.

Today is Bridger's fifth birthday. He isn't here to celebrate it, because he swallowed one tiny string from that toy. It stretched through his intestines, and it did irreversible damage to his insides. He died seven days later.

Bridger, Photo Courtesy of Me
I'm not telling you this so you will feel sorry for me. I'm not even telling you this so you will remember Bridger. (Although I want you to remember Bridger. My husband and I rescued him from the Anchorage pound in 2008 after he was abused and abandoned and left without a note in the night drop cage. He grew to be the love of our lives, and he brightened every single moment we were blessed to spend with him. My life is indescribably richer because Bridger was part of it.)

I am telling you this because I want to save YOUR pets from suffering a similar fate. You may not realize this, but every single year, thousands of dogs and cats die from ingesting the strings and stuffing inside their toys.

I will say this again, because if you are like me, you probably think this could never happen to your pet.


I'm sure I heard this warning somewhere. I probably even read it on the toy's packaging. But I didn't process the reality of this, because every single pet store I know sells AISLES and AISLES and AISLES of adorable, colorful, harmless-looking stuffed toys.

I probably filed this somewhere with the, "Caution, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot" warning. Something the manufacturers put on the toy in case a one-in-a-million anomaly occurred.

But what happened to Bridger is no one-in-a-million anomaly. According to VPI Pet Insurance, foreign body ingestion is one of their very most common claims. "In 2007, VPI policyholders filed more than $3.2 million in claims for foreign body ingestion for dogs and cats combined."

Why is foreign body ingestion so dangerous?

According to WebVet.com, "The digestive tract is essentially a long tube within the body that is surrounded by bands of smooth muscle. These bands of muscle produce rhythmic waves of contractions... which push food and other materials down the digestive tract, much like balls being pushed through a sock. On rare occasions, ingested foreign material can get stuck as it is being pushed along. If this obstruction is not relieved, the pressure at the site of obstruction can cut off the blood supply, so that part of the intestine dies. Untreated, this condition is usually fatal.

"Obstruction near the front part of the digestive tract causes severe vomiting, and the pet cannot keep anything down. Obstruction farther down the tract may also cause straining to defecate, with little or no feces passed. Obstruction anywhere in the tract usually causes severe abdominal pain, so that the abdomen is tense and rigid.

"Obstruction can be caused by many different materials, including cloth, bones, toys, rawhides, sticks, and garbage. Long pieces of fabric such as yarn, string, or nylon stockings are special problems that can lead to severe obstruction. These linear foreign bodies can cause the bowel to fold upon itself, so that large sections of intestine “pleat up” and lose their blood supply. This is especially a problem in cats, in which string or yarn looped around the base of the tongue becomes anchored there, while the other end pleats up the intestine."

That thing about linear foreign bodies and "pleated up" intestines? That's exactly what happened to Bridger. That's why I was forced to say goodbye to him seven days after his fourth birthday. That's why I curled into the fetal position on the emergency room floor, and that's why I still can't say out loud the reality of what happened that day:

Bridger died because I killed him. 

I killed him because I had no idea how dangerous stuffed toys are.

I know what you're thinking: "But I give my pet stuffed toys all the time. He loves them, and I've been giving them to him for years. Something like this could never happen to me."

But it can. And did with Bridger, even though my husband and I had probably given him hundreds of stuffed toys before.

Which is why I spent Bridger's birthday inside a Petco tonight, buying a huge box of treats and toys to donate to my local animal shelter. I got all of Bridger's favorite things, but he isn't here to enjoy them. It only took one string from one toy to take him away from me.

PLEASE listen to my warning and get up from your computer the second you finish reading this. March to your pet's toy box, and throw away every single item you think he may be able to ingest. Even the cute ones. The ones he's had for years. The ones he loves most. Because it only takes one.

When you're done, give your pet the biggest hug you can possibly imagine. 

Maybe spare a kind thought or two for Bridger. 

And count your blessings you read this before it was too late.


Linda Jackson said...

I don't have pets, Lisa Ann. But the same type of warning could hold true for children. Don't give them toys with small removable parts, because little kids put everything in their mouths. The small pieces could come off and choke them. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Kate said...

Thank you for this message! I had NO idea that this could happen. So scary!!!!!

squirrel_e_girl said...

Thank you...our toy basket has just been sorted through and purged. Sending healing vibes and gentle thoughts your way. Please forgive yourself.

bethchristopher.com said...

My heart goes out to you, Lisa. Thanks for spreading the word about how dangerous these toys can be. And I agree with Squirrel... please forgive yourself. It was a tragic accident, and somewhere, Bridger knows how crazy much you love him. Big hugs to you!

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Feeling so sad for you. Thanks for the warning.

Tara Dairman said...

Oh, Lisa, I'm so sorry. It does seem ridiculous how commonly these toys are sold when they're so dangerous. This is definitely an eye-opener for me. Thank you for sharing what I know must have been a very painful post to write.

Elias McClellan said...

Doing a toy audit on Sneaky and PurrC's junk box o' fun tonight. Thank you for sharing. I wish you comfort and peace from your sorrow.

Kathryn Rose said...

This devastated me. As a mama to a very loved dog and a very loved cat, I will definitely take a look at their toys and toss out the plush ones. Bridger, happy birthday, buddy. Lots of people thinking about the happiness you brought to the parents who loved you.


Donna Perugini said...

I'd read about this but in a different toy...the 'tug of war, twisted strings toy for you and your dog'. They'd written about the strings getting loose, swallowed and having the same effect that you wrote about.

Our dog loves that toy, but I began to see the strings falliing off the toy which meant she'd been chewing on it. She's okay and we tossed the toy. Thanks for your warning about the other 'not so obvious toys'.

So sorry that this happened to your dog, LisaAnn.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

Oh Lisa - your blog posts always bring me to tears - especially the animal ones. Poor Bridger. And hugs to you. And good lesson for us all.

LisaAnn said...

Thank you guys so much for your support. It has been a rough week, but I am so thankful to have you. I'm also beyond grateful to those of you that are cleaning out your toy chests because of this post. I want to help as many other pets as I can.

Pam Asberry said...

Lisa Ann, your story moved me to tears. I love my dog to the moon and back and cannot imagine life without him. I am going to share the link to this post on Facebook right now. Love and hugs!

Julee J. Adams said...

{{{{hugs}}}} from Indiana. I am so sorry for your loss. We love our fur babies so and you need to mourn and remember, then cut yourself some slack. You are doing such an important thing by sharing your very sad story in your grief, but please understand that unfortunately horrible things happen. Just know your friend is up on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge remembering only the love.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Oh honey, you didn't kill him. You loved him and it was an accident but you shouldn't blame yourself. He wouldn't blame you. He loved you too. ((hugs))
I'm always worried about this, because my dog George eats EVERYTHING. Q-tips, garbage, toys. He especially loves squeakers in toys, which is why they're not typically allowed in our house. We try to keep all our dogs entertained with antlers, because they can't break off and eat pieces.

Charlie Holmberg said...

Oh honey, I'm so sorry about Bridger. I've grown up with dogs, so I know how much part of the family they are. I had no idea about the dangers of these toys, so thanks for the head's up.

And you didn't kill your dog. I don't know what guilt you still harbor over the incident, but know it wasn't your fault. You rescued Bridger and gave him a good home! I've worked in shelters before, and trust me--death is inevitable, but those animals would much rather die in a loving home than in one of those metal cages.

LisaAnn said...

These comments literally make me tear up every time I read them. Thank you guys SO much for taking the time to leave a message. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.

Dumba said...

Dear LisaAnn

Oh no!, what a tragedy. I am so sorry for you, for your husband and for Bridger himself.

Once again I am impressed by your personality and what a caring person you are. Thank you for the warning.

I will immediately give the link of your article to my international blog-friends, who in general love all animals. The majority of them is the owner of and/or owned by cats and/or dogs and one even by a goose in addition.

A comforting virtual hug to you and everybody who suffers from this unbearable loss.


Dumba said...


BRIDGER remains a bridge!

Dinda Amanda said...

Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

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