Dogs swallow needles.

Why do dogs swallow needles?  As Sir Edmund Hillary said about Everest, “…because it’s there.”  Oddly enough, if they actually get a needle or pin swallowed, more often than not, it just passes on through and comes out in the stool.  Under most (NOT ALL) circumstances, the intestinal tract recoils from those sharp points and the needle just eases on through.   This does not mean you should ignore an occurrence of needle eating.  The needle can certainly lodge in other places, can perforate the gut, and can do a great deal of damage as it travels through.  You should definitely consult your veterinarian if you know your pet has eaten a needle.

Oddly enough, the situation is usually worse if a thread is attached.  In fact, a wad of thread by itself can be a problem.  One end gets caught, the thread is now a “linear foreign body”, and the intestine bunches up on it like the waistband of a pair of sweatpants.  The string then saws through the folds, causing multiple holes in the gut, which is VERY bad.  This is called a plicating (folding) foreign body.

What string (2) That’s why seeing this dog who had swallowed a needle had me more worried than usual.  The dog is saying, “Thread?  What thread?  I don’t see a thread.  Do you see a thread?”  Like his owner, he’s just worried about the needle.

This string (2) This thread right here.  Now the owner knew he had grabbed up her quilting needle, because A. it wasn’t where she left it, and B.  here is the thread she was using, hanging out of the dog’s mouth.  Hey, why don’t we just pull on it and get the needle out?  Reason #1:  If we break the thread, we’ve lost our handle that will help us find it.  Remember Theseus and Ariadne in the labyrinth?  (No?  Better google it, then.)    Reason #2: It might be really painful for the patient.

This needle (2) First we took a whole-body X-ray and found that the needle was in the head “somewhere”.  That’s why we anesthetized our curious friend to look for it.  Fortunately (for me) I could see the eye at the back of the palate (roof of the mouth).  It was also fortunate that I didn’t pull on the thread much.  The needle point was directed straight up behind the eye (about an inch deep). Ouch!

We sent him home with a little pain medicine and antibiotics and he’ll be fine.

13 thoughts on “Dogs swallow needles.

  1. Maayan Gordon says:

    I have loved dogs my entire life. I now own a black labrador/aussie mix and i am training a guide dog puppy who is a lab. I have worked in two vet clinics and i loved beeing able to help animals in need. I have also previously raised and trained a guide dog named Garth who I now miss very much. Because of my love of dogs I decided to start a store for dogs so I can continue to help them.

    • Frank says:

      I’m not certain that that my daughters golden retriever has possibly swallowed a sewing needle with thread the problem is that I am assuming that he might have because we haven’t found the needle anywhere. What would be the symptoms that we should look or expect?

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Frank,
        The vast majority of the time, a needle will just pass on through. If there is a lot of thread attached, this can hang things up. Signs of intestinal blockage range from a patient who just quits eating and doesn’t feel good, to one who is vomiting a lot. IF the needle perforated the intestine, you would develop a bad infection, like someone with a rupture appendix. Then you would feel really bad, run a fever, abdominal pain, possible vomiting.

  2. Patricia Graham says:

    This “thread” is so timely for me. Thank you! This morning, 7 o’clock hour, my 1 year old dachshund that I adopted 10 days ago, snatched a spool of thread with a sewing needle in it from a partially opened
    drawer. I’d taken my attention off her for just a few minutes. Then caught her with unraveling thread, but the needle was missing! I searched the floor and sofa. No needle. So I was able to get her seen by ER vet by 1:30 PM. The vet reported no needle was seen on the x-ray. So I was relieved! I left without asking questions or seeing the x-ray…the hospital was so busy. So I returned home and continued searching for the needle. My dog acts fine, tired from the drama, but pooped this evening… But I am still worried and questioning the reliability of the vet’s x-ray reading. How visible are needles on x-ray? Could the vet have missed seeing a needle?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Patricia,
      Sorry I’m a bit late on this. A needle would show up GREAT on an X-ray. Metallic objects are very visible, so I doubt that your doctor would have missed it. “Never say never”, as they say, but it is very unlikely that he/she would have missed a metallic object like that.

  3. Dreama Harlow says:

    my beagle swallowed a lancet needle will she be ok do i need to worry if it will hurt her insides

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Dreama,
      Sorry that I just saw this. A sewing needle will often pass through without hurting things. The intestinal tract will recoil from the sharp edges. It is worse if there is thread attached. By lancet, I am assuming that you are talking about the little things you prick your finger with for a blood sugar check. It may pass through without hurting anything. I would be more worried about the size of thing causing a possible blockage, rather than the sharp tip being a problem.

  4. Kat says:

    Hello, I had a similar problem, as described in other questions. There is a high possibility that my corgi dog ate a sewing needle while I was at work. I found a little broken piece of the needle and worried is the smaller, sharp end would do more damage then a regular size? He dose seems have less energy then normally, but did ate his dinner and pooped so far.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Kat,
      If there is no thread attached, a short piece of metal will probably pass without difficulty. If he is still feeling good in 3 days, I would not worry.

  5. Marie says:

    My 7 month old lab ate some push pins. I did find 4 in his stool but worry about more and what to do. I read about cotton balls soaked in milk?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Marie,
      You can also use canned pumpkin along with the cotton balls. We’re looking for bulk. The intestine will usually recoil from the sharp stuff and let it pass. The concern is getting it out of the stomach. The metal in the push pins would show up on X-rays, so you might get a picture to see if you’re still dealing with more push-pins.

  6. Lee says:

    Im not sure if my dog/s ate a needle I found my sewing kit wide open and one of my dogs were chewing on the pin cushion although there were still needles I dont know the exact number of those.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Lee,
      If the needle had no thread attached, there is a very good likelihood that it will pass without a problem. The intestinal tract tends to recoil from the sharp objects. Wads of thread can hang up and cause problems. A needle will show up great on an X-ray, but the thread would be invisible. If he begins to feel bad, then an Xray would be the first thing. You would not want to induce vomiting. Feeding some fiber would be fine, like canned pumpkin.

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