It’s never ideal when your dog eats something sharp or pointy.
So when you find out that your dog ate safety pins that you thought you had safely stored in the drawer, it’s natural for your mind to fall into a state of disarray and panic.
“What if he chokes? What if the pins pierce a hole in his stomach? What if he gets safety pin superpowers?”
Take a deep breath.
Luckily, even if your dog swallowed an open safety pin, the most probable thing to happen would be for it to pass safely out the other side, encased in poop.
I wager you’ll never again be so happy to rifle through a dog’s droppings for the remainder of your life.
Of course, in the worst case scenario it is possible for the safety pin to cause a stomach blockage, or to perforate your dog’s intestines. In both cases, emergency surgery would be required.
As unlikely as these are to occur, it might then be a good idea to pay your vet a visit the moment you realize that your dog has eaten a safety pin so that you can get ahead of any potential issues.
Through an X-ray, the vet will be able to both confirm the existence and determine the exact location of the offending pin. He will then be able to advise whether you should allow the pin to pass naturally, or whether surgery or an endoscopy are preferable options.
What Happens If A Dog Eats A Pin?
There are 3 possible things that can happen if a dog eats a safety pin(s):
This is the overwhelmingly likely outcome if a single safety pin was eaten.
Unless it was a jumbo-sized safety pin, the pin itself is usually relatively tiny even when compared to a small breed of dog.
If the pin was closed when your dog ate it, then there is no danger at all of piercing, and very little chance that it is big enough to cause a blockage. In the case that many closed pins were eaten, they will likely progress just as harmless out of your dog’s digestive tract.
Even if the safety pin was open when ingested, it should be able to make its way through the dog’s digestive system without much problem. Bigger needles have been known to pass quite easily out of a dog’s system, despite scary outward appearances.
This is due to the fact that your dog probably has other food already inside its stomach, which will effectively envelop the pin and cover up the pointed end.
The GI tract also naturally retracts away from sharp points, so as long as your dog isn’t running and jumping around straight afterwards there usually isn’t enough force for a pin to puncture the intestinal lining.
If an injury or obstruction were to occur, signs would show quite quickly after the pin was swallowed. If a day or two have already passed without your dog showing any symptoms, then the pin has already been excreted and your dog is very much in the clear.
Though improbable, there is still a chance that a perforation of the intestines can occur. This will be made more likely if your dog ate multiple pins, large pins, or experiences any jolts or bumps, such as if the dog exercises heavily or jumps on and off furniture.
Intestinal ruptures can lead to a condition called peritonitis, which is when the membrane of the abdominal wall becomes inflamed.
As the GI tract is punctured, large volumes of intestinal content can be released. This will lead to absorption of a large amount of bacterial toxins, resulting in sudden shock, and then death. The mortality rate of peritonitis in dogs is 50-70%.
Signs that a dog is suffering from peritonitis can include:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Blood in stools
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Fluid accumulation
Emergency treatment involving stabilization, surgery, and antibiotic therapy must be performed by a vet as quickly as possible if peritonitis is suspected.
In all likelihood, internal obstruction is the least probable consequence that could occur if a dog were to eat safety pins.
Internal blockages tend to occur when a dog tries to eat things that its stomach can’t digest, such as tree bark and cleaning sponges, or if a dog gorges itself on food.
Unless your dog is a very small or toy breed, the average safety pin is probably just too small to cause any serious blockage issues. It is more possible that any cloth that was ingested along with the pins would present a bigger risk.
Once it happens however, stomach obstruction is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. When the passageway between the stomach and small intestine becomes blocked, blood supply to the area gets cut off and the surrounding organs will start to decay.
What may start out as a partial blockage may turn into a full blockage at any point, so it is vital that you take your dog to the vet as soon as you see any signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, straining to defecate, constipation, or visible stomach bloating.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Ate Safety Pins? 4 Simple Steps
There are 4 simple steps that you can take, after your dog has eaten safety pins, that will help to ensure its safety and speedy recovery.
X-Ray Examination (Optional, But RECOMMENDED)
There are a few reasons why taking your dog to the vet is recommended, though not strictly necessary.
If it was just a very small safety pin that you are certain was closed when your dog swallowed it, or simply because you are very busy over the next day and don’t have time, you can skip over this step quite safely.
However, if you are sick with worry wondering whether your dog actually ate a pin, then taking a quick trip to the vet for an X-ray will be able to put your mind at ease very quickly. The answer will be unambiguous- either yes, or no.
Safety pins are usually made out of metal, and as such will light up very clearly on an X-ray. You will be able to see whether or not the pin is inside your dog, the exact location of the pin, and whether the pin is in an open or closed position.
By taking your dog to get an X-ray, you will be able to completely mitigate any risk that might otherwise be involved if you relied solely on waiting the pin out.
The vet will be able to determine the best course of action moving forward, whether that be letting the pin pass naturally, inducing vomiting, performing an endoscopy, or using surgical methods to remove an open safety pin in the intestines.
For example, if it is shown on the X-ray that the pin is closed and has already moved into the intestines, then there’s nothing else that you need to do except to wait for it to be excreted.
If it is in the stomach, you can make a decision whether to have the vet perform an endoscopy to pull it out instantly. This is a non-invasive measure and cheaper than surgery, but it wouldn’t be advised if the safety pin is open since it could cut the esophagus on the way up.
If the pin is nowhere to be seen- Congratulations! It has already made its way back out in the world somewhere, lying harmlessly in a pile of dog droppings.
Wait For The Safety Pin To Pass
Whether you decide to take your dog for an X-ray or not, the main course of action in most cases will simply be to let the pin pass on its own accord.
If unencumbered, the pin will move all the way through the digestive tract in 12 to 24 hours. There are a few things that you can do during this time to help your dog, such as monitoring it for adverse symptoms, and feeding it foods that will expedite the process.
One thing that you definitely don’t want to do without a vet’s guidance is to try to induce vomiting.
The esophagus is the most fragile part of the whole gastrointestinal tract, so if you try to make your dog throw the safety pin back up, you risk potentially cutting and puncturing it.
Doing so would cause serious complications and the dog would need to be taken to the emergency hospital immediately.
Monitor For Symptoms Of Obstruction Or Perforation
Normally, when a dog swallows something sharp like a pin or needle, they will show adverse symptoms very quickly- if not immediately. For instance, if they were to begin choking on the object, they would start to gag, cough or paw at their face.
Since the normal digestive cycle is around 12 to 24 hours, that is the most important time following ingestion of the safety pins to look for signs which could indicate possible stomach blockage or punctured intestine.
As long as your dog doesn’t show any of the following signs and symptoms, you can be assured that it is not being affected by the presence of pins inside its body.
Symptoms to watch for include:
- Persistent vomiting
- Loss of appetite and nausea
- Stomach pain, hardness or discomfort, especially when touched
- Lethargy, being less active than usual
- Blood in stool
- Constipation and straining to poop
- Behavioral changes such as whining, pacing, heavy panting, drooling
- Body temperature falling below 99 degrees Fahrenheit or rising above 102.5 degrees F.
If any of these signs are present, it would be a good idea to take your dog to the vet immediately for assessment and treatment. The good news is that as long as you discover the symptoms early, the prognosis for recovery is very good.
Feed Your Dog High-Fiber Foods, Frequently
Feeding your dog the right foods while waiting for the pins to pass can both speed up the digestive process, as well as make the journey through the bowels much less hazardous.
The idea is to provide as much of a barrier and cushioning around the safety pins as possible so that the walls of the intestines are protected from perforation.
You can do this by:
- Giving your dog a few slices of whole-wheat bread or mashed potatoes within 2 hours of the pins being ingested. This will help to provide the initial cushioning necessary to shield the pins. Make sure the bread does not contain ingredients like chocolate or raisins that can be toxic to dogs.
- Feeding double or even triple the normal amount of food that your dog usually gets for their next two meals.
- Feeding every 4 to 6 hours to make sure that there is a constant food presence in the digestive tract. More food means faster transit time, after all.
- Providing your dog with low fat, easy-to-digest foods such as boiled lean meat and rice instead of its normal meal.
- Supplementing your dog’s meals with high-fiber foods to help to bulk the stool and move the waste material through the tract. High-fiber foods will expand and bind the pin, helping it to pass safely. Suitable high-fiber options can include canned pumpkin paste, psyllium husk and commercial supplements such as Metamucil and Benefiber. Psyllium seed in particular is helpful as a bulk laxative.
- Giving your dog one tablespoon of Karo or other corn syrup product every 8 hours to help accelerate defecation by drawing water into the intestines.
- Encouraging your dog to drink as much water as possible– as long as your dog is not vomiting. Hydration is extremely important for healthy digestion, so ensure that your dog is getting enough to drink.
Keep An Eye On Your Dog’s Poop
The final step is as unpleasant as it is necessary– you will need to keep a close eye on your dog’s every poop over the next few days. If your dog shows no symptoms and eats the high-fiber diet prescribed above, the pin should arrive within a day or two at most.
The only way to truly make sure that the safety pin is out of your dog’s system (other than taking it to the vet for repeated X-rays) is to find it in your dog’s stool. The worst thing is that the pin may not be readily visible, however closely you look, unless you physically try to locate it.
That’s code for: You may have to get your fingers in there, if you really want to be sure. And now that you’ve already come this far, you probably will want to be sure.
Oh, the joys of being a dog owner!
It’s time to put on some rubber gloves and start digging! Alternatively, you can use a strainer or a sieve and dissolve your dog’s poop under running water to see if the pin emerges- but where’s the fun in that?
Despite it being sharp and pointy, safety pins are probably one of the safer things that your dog could accidentally swallow.
While that’s not much of a consolation, it will still be reassuring to know that both the size and the closed shape of the pin lend well to it being passed without damage being caused to the inside of your pup.
Regardless of whether the safety pin is open or closed, the most likely consequence is that your dog will pass it within a day or two. You can help to expedite and smooth out this process by monitoring it carefully and providing various helpful, fiber-rich foods.
While improbable, intestinal ruptures and stomach blockages are possible in unlucky cases, so it’s helpful to know the signs. If you see your dog vomiting, lacking in appetite, in visible stomach pain, or straining to defecate, it would be a good idea to take it to the vet immediately.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.