It may be a poor excuse for missing homework, but if that elusive sock or jocks can't be found your pet's stomach may be the hiding spot.
A leading pet insurer has revealed underwear – most commonly G-strings – were the objects most frequently ingested by dogs and cats last year.
Socks, string and dental floss, decorative stones and butter – the latter posing a pancreatitis risk – rounded out Pet Insurance Australia's top five unplanned pet swallowings.
Nadia Crighton, spokeswoman for the family-owned private business, said the risk to the pet and cost of treatment could be great. One case involved a dog swallowing a sewing needle, causing medical expenses totalling $5000, which insurance covered.
"Luckily the dog made a full recovery," she said.
The list covered only cases where the pet made a full recovery, as people did not claim for a diagnosis when the dog or cat had died, she said.
Ms Crighton said cats were notorious for swallowing string and dental floss, which could spell disaster if it became attached to an anchor point, normally the tongue.
"The foreign body will then continue down the animal's digestive tract," she said.
"This can bunch and actually saw though the sensitive tissues."
"So it is really important that if pet owners notice something sticking out of their dog or cat's rear end, like string, do not attempt to pull it out! Seek vet advice immediately."
Canberra Veterinary Hospital & Canberra Equine Hospital director Mark Ethell said after socks and stones or rocks, fruit stones, macadamia nuts and butchers' string and kebab sticks which had previously "had something tasty on them" were most common at the Lyneham centre.
"As a general rule younger animals are more prone to doing this just as human babies and kids are more likely to be putting things into their mouths," Dr Ethell said. "Keeping these objects away from where the dog or cat can get them is the key.You need to take care re garbage bins, laundry baskets etc."
Dr Ethell said when a pet was showing signs of distress it should be taken to a vet as soon as possible for a health check, and in some cases it may be appropriate to induce vomiting if the swallowing was recent.
Some things could pass through the dog or cat, but investigations might include X-rays, ultrasound imaging or endoscopy (internal examination of the stomach with a flexible telescope).
Recently in the US a Great Dane exhibiting symptoms of stomach problems was found to have eaten 43 socks.
Dr Ethell also warned against leaving medications where pets could access them. He said the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as Nurofen), paracetamol and antidepressants (such as Prozac) were the most common human medications ingested by pets, and results could be deadly.
"Even one or two anti-inflammatory pills can cause serious harm to a pet," he said.
Rachel Aitchison's cavoodle Roxy is one of those dogs who can't resist taking a bite of underwear, and targets only the crotch area.
She said the eight-year-old had destroyed dozens of pairs of underwear including hers and those of her three children, but refused to chew her husband's.
About a year ago the first health problem arrived, as Roxy's underwear consumption overlapped with eating a plastic yoghurt lid, stopping her usual bowel movements and ending her appetite. Total medical costs to save the beloved pet were nearly $4000, with no insurance in place, and now underwear is watched very closely.
"We've actively made a point of hiding them - we were always conscious of it, but now even more," Ms Aitchison said.
TOP FIVE OBJECTS INGESTED by a dog or cat:
- Underwear – with the most popular being G-strings
- String & Dental Floss
- Decorative Stones
- Butter (causing pancreatitis)
Source: Pet Insurance Australia, 2015.