dogs, golf balls, pica, dogs eating strange things

The 13 golf balls removed from the stomach of Oscar, a Labrador that 
had been eating them during the last several months. Oscar has 
recovered from the surgery.

Vet Removes 13 Golf Balls from Dog’s Stomach

September 08, 2008 07:56 AM
by Emily Coakley
Dog owners know that the story of a Labrador who snacks on golf balls is just one of many examples of a bizarre and sometimes harmful behavior.

‘It Was Like a Magic Trick’

It’s a dog-eat-golf-ball world, says Chris Morrison, the owner of a Labrador named Oscar who had surgery about two weeks ago to remove 13 golf balls from his stomach. Oscar had been eating them during his walks around the golf courses near his Scotland home.

“We’re not sure how long exactly this happened over, but it must have been a fair period—several months at least. I felt his stomach and heard them rattling around,” Morrison said in a BBC interview. “He normally brings a few home, but I had no idea he had eaten so many.”

Oscar was doing well after the hour-long surgery, the BBC reports. Veterinarian Bob Hesketh, who initially thought there were two or three balls in the dog’s stomach, compared the discovery to a “magic trick.”

“They just kept coming until we had a bag full,” Hesketh told the BBC.
Oscar’s eating habits may be strange but, as many dog owners know, they are not unusual for the species. The practice of eating strange, non-food items even has a name: pica. A dog that eats his or another dog’s waste has coprophagy, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

An MSNBC article recounts dog owners’ stories of their pets eating underwear, reading glasses, a Rolex watch, Christmas ornaments and coffee grounds. Similar stories comprise the blog Stuff My Dog Pooped Out, which features photos, videos and news accounts. Though the site hasn’t been updated recently, there are a number of older posts to browse.

Background: Pica

The reasons for pica aren’t known, but there are several theories, including that dogs do it for attention, out of frustration or anxiety, or in an attempt to get some missing nutrient. Pica can be life-threatening, since some swallowable items can damage a dog’s digestive system.

The Humane Society offers several tips for dealing with pica and coprophagy, such as changing dog food and keeping several toys on hand to occupy your dog.

Related Topic: Pica in other creatures

Cats can also have pica, as can humans. In cats, the behavior has been associated with other health problems, such as feline leukemia, according to the University of California—Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Teaching Hospital. In people, pica is most commonly seen in toddlers, according to eMedicine. Pica can be life-threatening or harmless, depending on what is ingested. According to eMedicine: “In some societies, pica is a culturally sanctioned practice and is not considered to be pathologic.”

Reference: Dog care guide


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