Finding your dog with his nose in your trash, and garbage scattered all over the floor, is unpleasant to say the least. It is also potentially dangerous. Garbage can be a source of chemical harm (if the dog swallows toxic products), physical harm (if a sharp object cuts his intestinal tract or a foreign object gets lodged), or bacterial harm (from spoiled food).

Why do dogs eat garbage? Dogs are not known for being fussy eaters. Put something in their paths, and they will gobble it up, whether it is table scraps, garbage or a battery.

According to Brian Kilcommons, director of animal behavior at the Center for Animal Care in New York City, dogs are doing what comes natural for them. “ What may seem disgusting to us, is normal behavior for dogs who are scavengers. Garbage probably tastes better to them than most dry dog food. They love to investigate, and may choose to amuse themselves by checking out the trash.”

Garbage isn’t the only thing that attracts dogs. They often chew and swallow things they shouldn’t. Foreign objects such as toys, string, clothing and plastic can become lodged in the stomach and create an obstruction. Just about any household object that your pet chews on can become a problem, and although some small foreign bodies can pass through the gut without getting stuck, the larger pieces can result in serious gastrointestinal complications.

The best way to prevent gastric foreign bodies is to prevent access to objects that could be swallowed…sound easy? NOT! Dogs are naturally curious and some will chew just about anything.

According to Veterinary Pet Insurance, the nation’s largest provider of pet health insurance, the top items that have to be surgically removed are socks, underwear, bedding, rocks, balls, chew toys, corn cobs, bones, hair ties and ribbons, and sticks. Since your dog’s esophagus is larger than her intestine, she is able to eat objects that can lodge in the bowl and cause problems. Other hazards to watch out for include plastic toys, rawhide chews, panty hose, personal hygiene products, batteries, golf balls, shoelaces, string and thread, coins, and human medicines…some dogs will even chew up the medicine containers!

It is important that your dog has enough to do because boredom and frustration almost always lead to trouble. Provide toys such as the Buster Cube or Kong that can be filled with cheese or other tasty tidbits which will enable the dog to forage for food in an acceptable way. Alternate toys to keep up his level of interest, and be sure that he gets plenty of exercise. A tired dog will not be as apt to scavenge for hazardous objects that he can chew apart and swallow.

If your dog experiences a sudden loss of appetite, vomiting, excessive drooling, and abnormal bowel movements (wrong color, consistency, or bloody.) there may be an obstruction and it is important to get immediate care. In most cases traditional or laparoscopic surgery is required, but the prognosis is usually excellent and the vast majority of blockages can be cured with prompt treatment—but without it, many are fatal. The more you control your dog’s environment, the better the chances of stopping problems before they happen!