Surgery to remove Fitbit also brought attention to a large rock in the intestine that may have caused further damage if left unchecked
It’s no secret that dogs like to take our things and put them in their mouths. So, when Marie Fournier, from Caseville, Michigan, found her Fitbit missing from her nightstand charging, she quickly suspected one of her 2 dogs, Harley and Halley, may have taken it.
"When I realized it must be one of the dogs who took the Fitbit, I began to suspect that perhaps Halley had eaten it because she was acting strangely," Fournier said, in an organizational release.1 "I put Halley in the car with me and drove around the block, but the app wasn't tracking. Then I did the same thing with Harley and found out she was the real culprit. Halley's strange behavior must have been empathy for her sister." Then, Fournier quickly called her veterinarian.
"At first, the veterinarian recommended we call another poison control center, but then I remembered that we have an AKC policy that includes calls to Pet Poison Helpline," Fournier added. Pet Poison Helpline teams up with AKC Reunite, a not-for-profit pet recovery service, offering its 24/7 toxicology expertise as an optional, unlimited benefit for its members to add to their pet's lifetime protection. Fournier had opted in for the coverage, so her consultations were included.
Pet Poison Helpline recommended she take Harley to the veterinarian immediately, so Fournier made her way with her pup to Caseville Small Animal Clinic. The veterinary team first did a radiograph that confirmed she had swallowed the Fitbit and that there was another mass that they couldn't identify in her lower intestines. Initially, they tried to induce vomiting. When nothing came up, but the mass moved, they could see it better.
"With any foreign body ingestion, there is a risk the item can become lodged in the stomach or intestines," expressed Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline, in the release. "We were also concerned about the Fitbit's lithium polymer batteries. Lithium batteries can be more dangerous than common alkaline batteries, as they generate electrical current that causes severe tissue damage and necrosis (tissue death) if lodged in the gastrointestinal tract. Since it was more than 24 hours since ingestion, there was a concern the Fitbit would not pass on its own and we recommended surgery."1
According to the release, medical team uncovered during the surgery that Harley had not only ingested the Fitbit, including its silicon band, but she also swallowed a rock the size of a prune. Because Harley was going to be under anesthesia for the surgery, the Fourniers decided to take advantage and had her spayed.
"The Fourniers were fortunate that Harley ate the Fitbit still attached to the band, rather than chewing and swallowing the battery separately," Schmid added. "The band most likely helped Harley avoid lodging of the battery and the severe tissue damage that is often seen with lithium batteries."
If a pet ingests any type of battery, including the most common lithium and alkaline dry cell batteries, severe damage to the gastrointestinal tract can take place and immediate veterinary care is recommended.1 Some factors including the specific type of battery, whether it was punctured, and how much was ingested, can affect if the required treatment is home monitoring, starting medication to offer gastrointestinal protection, or potentially surgery. Lithium batteries, especially round, button-type batteries, often become lodged in the esophagus, causing even more concerns.
"It's actually lucky that Harley ate the Fitbit," commented Fournier. "If she hadn't, we wouldn't have known about the rock, and it might have caused far more damage or death. Even after they removed the Fitbit from her stomach, it is still working. I recently purchased a new band, and the Fitbit itself continues to track. I'm keeping it out of reach now."
"Apparently, Fitbits can also take a licking and keep on ticking," she concluded.
Dog swallows Fitbit that continues to track her movement. Pet Poison Helpline. March 15, 2023. Accessed March 15, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dog-swallows-fitbit-that-continues-to-track-her-movement-301772045.html