Yesterday, Phoebe pulled a candle eating caper that earned her a trip to the emergency vet clinic.

When we arrived they took Phoebe in the back right away to do an initial assessment. About 30 minutes later they called us in to consult with the vet. The vet was not concerned about Phoebe ingesting unscented wax, since it is not poisonous; the real concern was whether or not the metal pieces (the candle wrappers and wick holders) would cause irritation or gastrointestinal ulcers / lacerations. An underlying concern was the possibility of the wax causing an obstruction. With that information we had to consider the course of treatment.


wpid-20150118_132457-1.jpgWe went over best-case to worst-case scenarios. Everyone agreed that the first thing to do was get some x-rays, which would dictate the route to take. If Phoebe had shards of metal in her stomach, vomiting could cause more damage. If that were the case, the vet could try to pull out the pieces via an endoscopy, and the worst case scenario would be surgery. First things first.

The x-ray indicated 28 metal wick holders in Phoebe’s stomach, gas in the colon and a small amount (3 or 4) wick holders in the small intestine. In other words some of the pieces were already working their way through the digestive system. Luckily, we did not see anything that looked sharp such as shards of the candles’ metal casing, so induced vomiting was reasonable.

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Click to Enlarge

After Phoebe went through a round of induced vomiting, the vet tech rinsed everything off and brought us bin full of stuff so we could see the results. There were 6 wick holders, some Phoebe’s dinner and a lot of wax. All total Phoebe ingested about 235 grams of wax, and about 100 grams came out. Great (sarcasm) only about 135 grams of wax and 22 wick holders to go.

The vet gave Phoebe a rest, letting her sleep for about 45 minutes and then tried another round of induced vomiting. The second attempt resulted in 7 more wick holders and another 30-40 grams of wax. The vet said it was difficult for Phoebe to get anything out on the second attempt, and so she was not going to put her through a third round. The left 10 or 11 wick holders and about 100 grams of wax still loitering in Phoebe’s digestive tract.

After a second opinion, the vet felt that the items were not sharp enough to warrant an endoscopy or surgery. In fact, she said that if it were her dog, she would wait and see if the rest passed on their own.

Phoebe was discharged with the following instructions:

Medication: Carafate every 8 hours for 5 days and Pepcid AC (20 mg everything 12 hours for 5 days).

Food: Leave her meals as-is, but add a tablespoon of plain pumpkin for 3 days

Watch closely for any of the following signs / symptoms:

  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • profuse bloody diarrhea (diarrhea was to be expected due to the oil in the candle, but not profusely)
  • bloat, or
  • seems to be in pain

At this point, it is just a case of using common sense and knowledge of how Phoebe normally behaves.

Lesson Learned

Even the most trustworthy dog can get in trouble when left unattended. All it takes is one bad doggie idea to cause some serious harm. If your dog is used to being crated, then use the crate every time you leave him or her alone – even if it is for a very short time. Another option is to put your dog in a doggie proof room when you are away (if there is such a thing). The goal is to make sure that everything is out of sight and inaccessible, but where do you draw the line? I would never think that I had to hide candles.

Make a list of the most common pet poisons (some are basic like chocolate and raisins, but there are others out there like azaleas and sago palm s). Don’t stop with just making a list, expand it to include information such as the symptoms of toxicity. Talk to your vet and gather more insight Gather whatever information you can and then pin the list where you can find it. Someday it may save your dog’s life.

Do not automatically induce vomiting at home. It may be the preferred method for some things, and actually cause damage in other scenarios (another thing to ask your vet about). Just educate yourself as much as possible up front, and then just chill and have fun with your dog.

Stories from the waiting room.

A lady brought in a tiny little white dog that had eaten about 2 1/2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The pooro little guy was vomiting and shaking like crazy.  That is a good example of how the amount ingested can vary by the size of the dog.

The next dog through the door was a golden retriever that had eaten rocks (and I thought candles were bad). I don’t know how many he ate, but he needed surgery.

I noticed something as I was sitting in the waiting room – some owners came in with some specific details and others came in with a string of,”I don’t know.” We do not need to watch every single move our dog makes, but we should be familiar with some things. If you need to take your dog to an emergency clinic, the more info you have, the better. It may not seem important to you, but the vet will appreciate it.