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Vets warning as puppy nearly dies after eating a disposable face mask

Image of two puppies, one brown and white and one black and white, wearing a face mask
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vets are asking pet parents to be extra careful when disposing of their PPE after a potentially fatal incident where an 11-month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, called Toffee, swallowed a face mask.

Staff at the Blue Cross charity’s animal hospital in London performed an emergency operation on Toffee after an ultrasound scan confirmed a large object was lodged in his stomach. Toffee’s owner Jess Busby initially thought Toffee’s upset stomach was a result of a change in diet, but a week later she realized his health was deteriorating.

“Toffee was just really lethargic and had lost weight – you could see the bones in his back – and suddenly his whole demeanor just changed and he vomited,” Busby recalls. After speaking with Blue Cross staff she was told to take Toffee to their animal hospital immediately where a scan revealed that Toffee needed urgent surgery.

Senior vet Roisin Bolger said she had no idea that the puppy had swallowed a face mask until she opened him up to see what was causing the blockage. “Toffee was really lucky to be brought into us when he was because blockages of the stomach and intestines like this are life-threatening.’

Busby was shocked when Bolger told her that the face mask had likely been lodged inside Toffee for two weeks, adding “we still don’t know where he got hold of the mask.” Since his operation, the playful pup has been running around and back to his old self but he’s not the only one to chow down on PPE in recent weeks.

Three-year-old Cockapoo Patch needed the same surgery after vets picked up the metal nose clip of a face mask when conducting a stomach X-ray on Patch who’d been brought in after swallowing a sock. “Initially we were only trying to find the sock” vet Riccardo Minnelli explained “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. We pulled it out along with the sock, and when we untangled it we found it was a disposable face mask.”

While both dogs are back to their old energetic selves with no lasting damage, Bolger has a stark warning for parents: “We’d urge dog owners to be vigilant around the home and when out and about on walks, especially those with young puppies and kittens. If you think your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t, or you are concerned about repeated vomiting, then always contact your vet for advice.”

For more advice on emergency pet care read our article on how to identify a pet emergency.