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The Case of the Puzzling Paper Towel:

Just when I think I’ve seen it all…

Paper towels? Causing an obstruction in the intestines? There’s no way! Those were my first thoughts as I started to read about a dog named Sydney, who recently ended up at our sister hospital, the Pet Emergency & Specialty Center of Marin. The surgeon there saved the life of the 13-year-old Australian Shepherd/Chow mix by performing an intestinal resection, during which she removed a wad of paper towels that Sydney had apparently swallowed during a football party!

I have officially headed into my eleventh year of practicing emergency medicine, and just when I think I’ve seen it all, I promptly get schooled in the possibility of the seemingly impossible. We frequently receive calls from worried pet parents saying that their dog ate some toilet paper or a paper towel containing irresistible food tidbits. I relay in a reassuring manner, “That should pass right on through with no troubles, just keep an eye out for any vomiting or diarrhea.”

Well, I suppose you can still teach this “older” dog a new trick! Although paper towels should pass without difficulty, I have never (until now) taken into account the invention of industrial strength paper towels. You know, the kind that soak up a gallon of liquid and still safely work as a hammock for two. The new breed of towels with “cloth-like durability” has opened up a whole new way for canines with indiscriminate eating habits to get into trouble. These industrial strength paper towels are essentially cloth, which can get stuck in the intestines and cause an obstruction, because they don’t “break down” in water (or stomach fluids) like weaker paper products.

I can now say one thing with certainty: the quicker picker-upper can turn into the quicker problem-maker, so please take extra precautions with these commercial-strength products should you use them in your home. And while we can’t prevent messes from happening, we can choose how we clean them up, so may I suggest using recycled paper products, such as Seventh Generation. Made from recycled paper, these towels are not only better for the environment, but they will break down into passable pieces should our furry pals sneak a piece while we are not looking!

The following is a link to Sydney’s story, and I hope that this tidbit of information can help keep another pup from experiencing the same problem in the future!  I hope you and your furry family have a fun and problem-free Super Bowl Sunday!

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