Holiday hazard 4: Ribbon and tinsel
Ribbon and tinsel: These shiny strings are simply too tempting for cats to resist. Though they’re not poisonous, when ingested these strings can result in a life-threatening linear foreign body, intestinal perforation, and septic peritonitis (infection in the abdominal cavity). A linear foreign body occurs when pets swallow something stringy, like ribbon, yarn, floss, or cassette-tape ribbon. The stringy-item wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors in the stomach and is unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string slowly saws through the intestinal tissue, resulting in severe damage and possible rupture of the pet’s intestinal tract. The treatment for linear foreign bodies involves complex and expensive abdominal surgery, hospitalization, antibiotics and pain management. Even after surgical removal, some pets may not survive.
If a pet does ingest a long piece of tinsel, ribbon, thread or string, advise the owner to immediately bring the animal into the clinic for an examination. Most importantly, if pet owners report they can see the string hanging from the pet’s mouth or anus, tell them not to pull on it as doing so may result in further tissue damage. Only trained veterinary professionals should remove such strings.
Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners, veterinarians, and veterinary support staff that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. The staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals, and exotic species. PPH’s $35 per-incident fee includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. PPH is available in North America by calling (800) 213-6680. For additional information, visit www.petpoisonhelpline.com.