If your dog ate your mouthguard, you may be shocked at first, just after discovering the fact, but then a little later, you may start getting worried. What happens now? Can a dog get sick from eating a mouthguard? What signs or symptoms should I watch for? When should I contact the vet? These are all important questions. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec provides information about what to do if your dog ate a mouthguard and signs to watch for.
What's Up With Dogs And Mouthguards?
Dogs really are not picky when it comes to what they put into their mouths. In fact, they are usually classified as voracious eaters. Just name it and your dog will be happy to taste it – from dirt and garbage to shoelaces and jewelry. As weird as it may sound, dogs can even eat a medical aid such a mouth guard. Yes…you read that right.
Why are dogs attracted to mouth guards? Reportedly, even dogs without previous history of chewing behavior have been hospitalized due to swallowing an orthodontic retainer or a night guard. The main question is why dogs do that? Well, the answer is quite simple – your dog is attracted to your mouth guard because of how it smells.
And guess what? Your mouth guard smells like you – like your saliva and like the food you eat. Additionally, dogs are attracted to the mouth guard’s material. In a nutshell, mouth guards are made of materials resistant to grinding and clenching. Therefore, when chewed on, they provide a nice and satisfying level of resistance. So, basically, for your dog your expensive piece of dental equipment is a nice-smelling and fun toy.
Help, My Dog Ate a Mouthguard!
What happens when a dog eats a mouth guard? The battle between your dog and your mouth guard can be quite dangerous for both parties – the mouth guard is usually destroyed beyond repair, while your dog is at risk of developing some serious gastrointestinal issues.
Generally speaking, after a dog eats a mouthguard there are several possible scenarios:
- The dog eats the mouth guard and passes it without any complications
- The dog eats the mouth guard and it causes gastrointestinal obstruction
- The dog eats the mouth guard and it causes airway obstruction
- The dog eats the mouth guard and its sharp pieces cause gastrointestinal tears and punctures.
So what to do if your dog eats your mouth guard? If your dog ate your mouth guard, the first thing you need to do is assess the level of damage. If your dog just chewed on the mouth guard and there are missing pieces look for them around. It is advisable to open your dog’s mouth to determine the presence of the missing pieces and extract them if possible (do so only if safe).
If your dog ingested the whole mouth guard, it is advisable to watch for the following warning signs and symptoms:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal tenderness
- Abdominal pain
If your dog is showing any of the above listed signs and symptoms, you need to visit your vet urgently. Swallowing a foreign object can have lethal consequences and therefore, it is considered a medical emergency.
On the other hand, if your dog is acting, eating and defecating normally, chances are he or she will pass your mouth guard’s missing pieces. You just need to be patient and check your dog's stools.
In fact, you can even aid the passing process by giving your dog a so-called "Vaseline sandwich." To prepare the Vaseline sandwich just spread a really thick layer of Vaseline between two pieces of white bread. The bread is rich in healthy dietary fiber while the Vaseline has an extreme lubricating power. This combination makes the passing of an object through the gastrointestinal tract much easier.
When dealing with such situation, many owners are tempted to induce vomiting. But is this the right step to take on your own? Well, first of all, it should be well-noted that mouthguards are not toxic to dogs. Therefore, generally speaking, if your dog swallowed your mouth guard it is not recommended to induce vomiting. Theoretically, if you act fast, usually within two hours of the ingestion, it is possible for your dog to eliminate the mouthguard through vomiting. However, the mouthguard, as well as its pieces, are sharp and practically, if vomiting is induced, they can damage your dog's gastrointestinal tract’s lining as they make their way back up.
At the Vet's Office
As in any other case, the vet will start by performing a full physical examination. Then the vet will likely recommend making an X-ray of your dog’s abdomen to assess the severity of the situation and determine the right approach.
Generally speaking, the vet is likely to suggest one of the following two approaches: 1) Surgery – to remove the mouth guard or its pieces from the dog’s gastrointestinal tract, to repair the damages they caused, and prevent further complications, 2) keeping the dog for observation at least until the swallowed pieces pass.
To make sure the patient is healthy and capable of tolerating the anesthetic procedure, the vet will perform some basic pre-anesthetic tests. These tests include:
- A complete blood count (CBC) – useful to rule out certain blood-related conditions
- Chemistry panel tests – to evaluate the functioning of the kidneys, liver and pancreas
- Electrolyte tests – to determine the patient’s hydration status and make sure there are no electrolyte imbalances.
How Can Such Accidents be Prevented?
It goes without saying that you should always keep your mouth guard out of your dog’s reach. Tall dressers, closets and drawers are good, safe and dog-proof keeping places. It is also advisable to regularly clean your mouthguard. This includes daily brushing and weekly deep cleaning. By keeping your mouthguard clean you remove the scent that actually attracts your dog thus minimizing the risk of unwanted accidents.
We know how much dogs are attracted to saliva and how much they love chewing. Therefore, it is safe to assume that, if given a chance, your dog will devour your pretty expensive mouthguard in a matter of seconds. Although expensive, the destroyed mouthguard can be easily replaced but the consequences your dog may experience can sadly be fatal. For that reason, it is always best to prevent such an accident from happening by keeping your dog and your mouth guard on a safe distance.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.