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.

EVERY SINGLE YEAR, THOUSANDS OF DOGS AND CATS DIE FROM INGESTING THE STRINGS AND STUFFING INSIDE THEIR TOYS.

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.