Vets are warning about the perils of carelessly dumped face masks after another dog needed urgent veterinary treatment after eating a whole mask. Three-year-old cockapoo Patch is thought to have wolfed down a discarded mask while out on a walk.
The UK’s leading daytime vets has seen a rise of face mask ingestion cases in recent months at My Family Vets clinics up and down the country following masks being carelessly discarded in parks, on the street and in open spaces. A number of vets have reported cases of dogs ingesting discarded face masks or other PPE such as plastic gloves in the past few months, prompting vets and animal charities to issue warnings.
Worried owner Sue Fox, from Thrapston, says she has seen scores of masks which have been thrown away and heard from others whose pets have become ill after eating them.
And vet Riccardo Minnelli, from Abington Park Vets, says owners need to be extra careful and seek immediate care to avoid serious complications.
Vets are also using this incident to remind the public that vets are very much open during lockdown and you should seek help if your pet needs it.
“We didn’t even realise Patch had got the face mask at first,” said Sue. “He has a habit of eating things around the house and he’d got into our tumble dryer and took a small sock.
“When he didn’t bring it back up, we knew we had to get help and took him to the vets.”
Patch was referred to Abington Park, in Northampton.
“Because we were told it was a sock, we were expecting to try and remove that, hopefully without needing surgery,” said vet Riccardo.
“But when we took a radiograph to check the position, we could see there was a piece of metal.
“That didn’t make sense for a sock but as it was still accessible in the stomach, we were able to go in with an endoscope which has a camera. We pulled it out along with the sock and when we untangled it, we found it was a disposable face mask.
“The metal was where you could adjust it around the nose. It was really unexpected and we had no idea how long it had been in the stomach.”
The video of the endoscope can be viewed on YouTube.
With reports suggesting the public are throwing away over 50 million face masks a day, Sue is appealing for considerate disposal.
“We have absolutely no idea where Patch picked it up but since it happened, I’ve been looking for them and I can see up to 10 each time we go for a walk,” said Sue.
“People just chuck them down when they’ve finished with them rather than put them in a bin.
“It’s so thoughtless and dangerous. I know Patch isn’t the only one this has happened to.
“It’s been really upsetting for me and I’ve actually lost weight with worry about his health, but I know of other owners whose dog have needed surgery.
“The masks have gone through their systems and really put their lives at risk.
“Patch is always looking for things, so we have to scan the ground and have even changed where we walk.
“I know we all need to use face masks at the moment, but people just need to think when they are finished with them.”
Riccardo added: “If your dog does eat one of these masks it can get lodged and cause an obstruction.
“And if there is metal it can cause internal damage. So, get it to your vet straight away if you suspect it has eaten one.
“And remember that our practice, like other vets, is still very much open to help, even in lockdown.”