You would think that your pet would know better than to eat a metal screw or nail, but pets swallow these objects quite often. Metal objects, even if they're not sharp, can pose a health hazard, but sharp objects can be a serious emergency. Sometimes they find these objects on their own and snap them up before anyone can do anything. Here are some ways pets can find sharp metal objects and what you can do if they accidentally swallow them.
What pets are at risk for swallowing sharp metal objects?
Any pet is at risk for finding these items and swallowing them, but some pets are more attracted to them than others. Birds, for example, are often attracted to shiny metal objects, and some birds, such as parrots, love to tear things apart with their bills. This leaves the chance that they may find a nail or screw and possibly swallow them. Birds such as waterfowl and chickens frequently pick up metal objects while they're foraging. Some animals (and humans) have a condition known as "pica." compulsively eat non-food items such as metal, plastic, or other materials.
How can pets be protected?
Try to keep your pets away from any areas where there is construction or repairs being done. If you're doing the construction yourself, keep your pet in another room or your farm animals in another pen. Make sure you go over the area with a metal detector when you finish your work. Try to keep an eye on where your pet is sniffing around or foraging while on walks or in your yard. Try to work with your veterinarian or pet trainer to reduce the incidences of pica and keep a close eye on affected pets.
What symptoms do pets display when they've swallowed these objects?
Symptoms can vary and your pet may be asymptomatic at first, but may act lethargic and lose his appetite soon after. He may act like he's choking or trying to vomit (don't let them) and may seem like he doesn't feel well. Birds that have eaten metal often begin to get lethargic and loose their appetite. They may appear to have neurological problems such as acting wobbly or falling off their perches.
Some lucky animals can pass the object on their own without any damage if it's small. However, it's also likely that the object can get stuck in the bowels and cause a blockage or puncture. Birds are especially unlucky because even a small amount of metal can make them extremely ill or cause them to die whether or not it passes through its symptoms. If you suspect your pet has swallowed a metal object, especially one that is sharp, then you must take your pet to an emergency animal hospital, even if he is acting fine. An X-ray can determine whether or not the metal piece is dangerous and needs to be removed.