Dogs have a way of getting into things they shouldn't. Whether it's a toxic food or inanimate object, once they get their paws on something that interests them, there's a risk that they'll eat it, too.
If your dog ate a condom, you might be nervous that their health is at risk. It can be hard to evaluate the severity of the situation if you're not sure what to look for. We chatted with Dr. Yui Shapard, BVM&S, MRCVS and Medical Director at Pawp to get to the bottom of it.
My dog ate a condom, should I be worried?
If you saw your furry friend ingest a condom, there are two main outcomes—it will pass in their stool or it will cause an obstruction and turn into a medical emergency. There are a few factors that will determine the best course of action.
If your dog is allergic to latex or the specific ingredients of the condom, this is an obvious issue and you'll need to seek a vet's assistance. But if that's not the case, the material (and whatever may or may not be inside it) in and of itself is not a source of concern. That being said, dogs may be at risk of a foreign body obstruction.
"If the condom gets stuck as it is passing its way through the intestines, it can cause a blockage," says Dr. Shapard. "This is more likely the case for smaller dogs. The general rule of thumb with the risk of obstruction is whether or not the material ingested is larger than the dog's normal stool size. If it is, there's a risk of possible foreign body obstruction and this is a medical emergency."
The best way to find out if this is the case is to have imaging performed to see if the condom is passing through or not.
Can my dog pass a condom?
The condom may pass if your dog's stool size is larger than the size of the condom ingested. It should typically pass within 24 hours after ingestion, give or take how active they are or how much food they had eaten that needs to be digested.
Should I take my dog to the vet for eating a condom?
If your dog ate a condom, it's important to look for the signs and symptoms of a foreign body obstruction to gauge whether or not this is an emergency situation.
"Common symptoms of a foreign body obstruction are inability to pass stool or straining to defecate, blood in stool, vomiting, lethargy, and decreased appetite with or without a tense or painful abdomen," explains Dr. Shapard. "However, some dogs may appear asymptomatic for weeks before they start to decompensate. This happens when they have a 'partial obstruction'—where the intestinal tract is still able to pass digested materials but the foreign object is stuck."
In these cases, it's trickier to tell through symptoms alone and they are more insidious in nature. In order to find out if there's an obstruction or not, diagnostic tests such as imaging using an x-ray or an ultrasound—or a combination of both—will be needed to make a diagnosis.
What will the vet do if my dog ate a condom?
This will ultimately depend on the doctor and their comfort level, as well as if they have seen more complicated situations arise.
Some doctors may induce vomiting if the condom was ingested within 30 minutes of being seen. However, inducing vomiting has a possible risk of an esophageal foreign body (where the ingested material gets stuck in the esophagus), so some doctors who have witnessed this happen or have been trained by someone who may not want to pursue an induction of vomiting, especially without first performing additional tests, will decide not to pursue this course of action.
Diagnostic imaging using x-rays or an ultrasound will most likely be used to confirm the condom's presence, location, and whether it is causing a blockage or not.
"An ultrasound is more accurate than an x-ray since x-rays may not be able to pick up a foreign material that is not dense (radio-opaque, is what we call it) and an x-ray can only tell if there's suspicion for an obstruction by observing presence of gas patterns in the intestinal tract," explains Dr. Shapard. "With that being said, it is still a useful diagnostic tool and x-rays are more affordable, so what may be suggested to the pet parent in the early stages of the condom ingestion is to perform several x-rays at different times to see how the condom is moving along."
If an obstruction has been confirmed, your dog will need to go through abdominal surgery to have the material physically extracted. If the condom is still in the stomach, the doctor may recommend an endoscopy removal of the material under anesthesia, which is a much less invasive option.
If you suspect your dog ate a condom and need advice about next steps, the Vet Pros at Pawp are available to chat 24/7.