Is my dog in any danger?
January 26, 2006 6:04 AM   Subscribe

I think my dog ate a penny. Has this ever happened to you? What should I expect at the vet?

I tried taking a coin away from my 1 yr old Boston Terrier last night. I turned my back to get a treat to distract him, but he no longer was chewing on the coin when I gave him the treat. I found a dime on the floor under the coffee table, but I swear he nicked a penny from the change that fell out of my pocket. I'm afraid he may have swallowed it. This morning he woke up and vomited a very small amount. From what I've found on the internet, this has been a serious problem for some, as the metal could be toxic. Does anybody have any experience with this kind of situation? I intend to take him to the vet, but can't until tomorrow.
posted by Roger Dodger to Pets & Animals (21 answers total)
I say this as someone who frets when my pets sneeze-- don't worry about it. It's not going to do him permanent harm to have a penny inside him until tomorrow. Dogs are scavengers who consider cat shit and dirty tampons a delicacy-- and they tend to vomit what they can't digest.

The vet is probably going to x-ray the dog to confirm he swallowed a penny and if he did-- brace yourself-- you're going to have to mash up the dog's scat to make sure the coin passes.

But I suspect that a) the dog didn't swallow a penny (I worry about what the dog might have eaten, too, so it's natural) and B) that given the gut tract length of the dog, he may very well pass the penny before you see the vet if it's in there.

By all means take him to the vet, but when looking for animal health advice on the internet keep this in mind-- most of the information is provided by middle-aged, alarmist single women who think the sky is falling ("OMG! Febreeze will kill your dog dead!!!" "Pass this on to everyone you know-- if you're dog's even smell chocolate they will DIE!!!")
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2006

You should expect to be turning over that penny to the vet when the bill comes.
posted by Maishe at 6:40 AM on January 26, 2006

I wouldn't sweat it one bit. What my dog considers edible makes me blanch. Seasoned parents wouldn't freak if their toddler swallowed a penny.

My 25 pound dog at half a bottle of Dexedrine once. I discovered it too late for the vet to do anything about it. I just watched her get very ill for about a day and a half and five years later she's still healthy.
posted by sourwookie at 7:18 AM on January 26, 2006

We jokingly say about one of our Boston Terriers that it is "Eat first, ask questions later" as she'll eat all sorts of things.

Still, take her to the vet as soon as you possibly can, just to be sure 1) that she did or didn't ingest it, and 2) that it isn't stuck somewhere.

I believe klangklangston had a bit of a scare recently with his dog and an earplug.

Our little Boston Terrier used to eat earplugs regularly, and it was quite strange to see these little purple and green things in her poo.

Good luck, and please let us know how he is doing.
posted by terrapin at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2006

If you were considering buying a metal detector, now would be the time to do so. No, really. Then you'll know if and when... the penny drops.

Seasoned parents...
Mmm. Seasoned parents.

posted by pracowity at 7:26 AM on January 26, 2006

This too, will pass
posted by lobstah at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2006

Three year olds...of the human variety eat coinage commonly enough and survive. I'd expect your dog is just fine. If its the one true source of joy in your life, take him to the vet. Personally, I'd just wait a while and see if it passes first.
posted by Atreides at 7:35 AM on January 26, 2006

I am afraid you will have to wait until tomorrow to get your penny back.
posted by caddis at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2006

Swallowing a penny used to be no big deal when they were copper. Now that they're mostly zinc, they're bad news if they don't pass quickly.
the chemical reaction between zinc and stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) is similar to that in wet cell batteries and would likely be caustic to the stomach lining. Apparently, when the penny became trapped in the boy's stomach, its zinc base reacted with stomach acid to produce hydrogen gas and zinc chloride (a major ingredient in the smoke from smoke bombs). According to O'Hara, this chemical reaction dissolved the zinc base of the coin, creating holes in the coin and ulcerations in the stomach lining. [...] While one penny is not typically enough to cause such systemic damage in a child, it can spell trouble for a pet. [...] Children and pets who swallow pennies should be monitored to ensure the coin passes. If it doesn't show up within two days or if the swallower starts having stomach problems, the child or animal should be taken to the doctor immediately.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2006

So the dog (his name is Roger, hence the origin of my nickname) has an appointment tomorrow morning, subject to cancellation if the penny should pass. The vet says the zinc in the penny can indeed cause problems, but it's nothing to be worried about yet. I'll keep you posted, and would love to hear any other related stories...
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2006

B) that given the gut tract length of the dog, he may very well pass the penny before you see the vet if it's in there.

Vet: "how's your dog doing?"

You: "No change."
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2006

Not sure about a dog, but my (now deceased) cat at a penny when he was around three yrs old. I didn't know this at first, but he started puking everything he ate. The vet x-ray'd him and discoved a coin lodged outbound from his stomach. Surgery removed the penny and he was okay. This was about 14 years ago, and cost about $300, I think. Taught me to keep my money in the bank instead of just piled on the floor.

Dog guts may be more robust, though. My dogs have never had this problem, and they eat just about everything (no, not chicken bones).
posted by mumeishi at 8:49 AM on January 26, 2006

Definitely take him to the vet, but I've seen dogs pass large tube socks and pairs of underwear (I used to work at an animal hospital when I was in high school) with no problem, so I don't think your little guy should have trouble passing a tiny penny. But I don't know anything about the possible toxicity, so the vet is a good idea.
posted by catfood at 8:54 AM on January 26, 2006

Yeah, Roger, the problem with the penny (according to my Vet Tech wife) is not the size, but the Zinc. She has seen several dogs die from Zinc toxicity, and others that have required surgery to remove a penny. Make sure you go and make sure your vet takes it seriously (mention Zinc toxicity if you must). Good luck!
posted by Rock Steady at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2006

dogs eat all kinds of crazy shit and they're usually fine.

also, my little brother swallowed a quarter once. my parents kinda freaked out and took him to the hospital, where he was x-rayed, and the doctors told them it would most likely be no big deal. they had my parents collect his poo and search through it (ick) until the quarter came out. if it didn't come out after about a week, it was probably stuck somewhere and that could be a problem, but it came out (all rainbow-colored from the corrosion) after a few days.

so you might consider doing this with your dog, if you can manage to keep track of when and where he poops for a week or so. knowing that it came out will give you some peace of mind, and if it doesn't pass after a few days then you can be more concerned and take him to a vet to see if it's stuck.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:47 PM on January 26, 2006

Thread derail, but I just had a great time looking at pics of Terrapin's Bostons. I looked for a link in Roger Dodger's profile but no luck. Here's Gus.

Also, this thread is cracking me up. Nothing like dog poo questions to bring out MeFi's smartasses.

RD, hope everything passes okay.
posted by Brittanie at 5:16 PM on January 26, 2006

So Roger just came back from the vet. He had an x-ray which showed no penny in his system. I didn't see it in any of his scat, which I was checking, but it's possible I missed it because it was dark. Or he could have thrown up. Or he might never have eaten it. Regardless, he's fine and wound up as ever. Total cost for the visit and x-ray was $105 if anyone would like to compare vet fees. The vet said that if a dog eats a penny minted before 1983, it wouldn't be a problem at all, but the zinc content in pennies minted after 1983 can poison a dog, especially a small dog like Roger (22 lbs now). He also said if a parrot eats a penny, it's a goner.

If you want to see Roger as a puppy, I started a Flickr account so Brittanie could see him. I'll be adding tons more pictures as time goes on, I'm sure. Thanks everybody.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:29 AM on January 27, 2006

That's great! Glad he's okay and thanks for the update.
posted by mumeishi at 7:09 AM on January 27, 2006

That is great news. Give Roger a scratch on the head for me.

Too bad about the lost penny though.
posted by caddis at 7:22 AM on January 27, 2006 wouldn't be a problem at all, but the zinc content in pennies minted after 1983 can poison a dog, especially a small dog like Roger (22 lbs now). He also said if a parrot eats a penny, it's a goner.

"And Eric, being such a happy cat, was a piece of cake."

I'm glad Roger is penniless.
posted by pracowity at 7:26 AM on January 27, 2006

Roger Dodger: Now join the Boston Commons Flickr group!
posted by terrapin at 1:04 PM on January 29, 2006

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