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Golden retriever ingesting diaper cream leads to another deadly discovery


X-rays and ultrasounds later found hundreds of hair ties inside the dog’s stomach

Retrievers are known to put almost anything in their mouth, and unfortunately have a high chance of swallowing something they shouldn’t. This was the case with 6-year-old Sawyer, a golden retriever from Fort Mill, South Carolina. Owner, Kim Manzo, discovered that Sawyer had gotten into her child’s diaper cream.

6-year-old golden retriever, Sawyer. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

6-year-old golden retriever, Sawyer. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

From the Pet Poison Helpline’s latest toxin tail story, Manzo explained, “Sawyer woke us up in the middle of the night on a Thursday vomiting white stuff, which we soon figured out was ointment from a tube of diaper cream containing zinc oxide. He hadn’t pierced the tube, but had squeezed out and consumed all the cream. He had never gotten into it before, but we figured he would throw it up and be fine. The next morning, Friday, he was still really sick, so we called the veterinarian. They suggested we call Pet Poison Helpline before bringing Sawyer to the clinic, so the toxicologists could develop a treatment plan.”1

After evaluating Sawyer, both the local veterinary office and the team at Pet Poison Helpline believed that the ingestion should no longer be of concern and recommended monitoring Sawyer at home since most dogs feel better the following day. However, they advised to bring him back to the hospital if he did not improve throughout the day.

Unfortunately, on Sunday Sawyer was still not feeling well and was reported as lethargic, so Manzo took him to an emergency veterinary hospital which did an x-ray, but the veterinarian originally thought an image he saw was food in his stomach. The next day, the veterinarian called Manzo back and explained there might be an object lodged in Sawyer’s stomach. He recommended another visit to the hospital, so this time Manzo drove him about 30 minutes to the Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in Charlotte, where they took more x-rays and did an ultrasound.1

Sawyer's x-ray. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

Sawyer's x-ray. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

“When the medical team at VEG Charlotte reviewed the new x-rays, they saw some type of foreign body in his stomach which may have been contributing to Sawyer’s clinical signs,” said Renee Schmid, DVM, DABT, DABVT, a senior veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. “When they performed surgery, they found a large number of hair ties that were holding a moderate amount of the zinc oxide cream in the stomach.”1

“They pulled out what looked like several hundred of my black hair ties,” Manzo exclaimed. “If you hold your arms out, you could fill both hands with what they removed. You know how you lose things? Well, apparently Sawyer had been eating my ties over the past several years, and they all got caught in his stomach. Because they went missing one at a time, I had just simply replaced them without really thinking about where they had gone.”1

Hair ties found in Sawyer's stomach. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

Hair ties found in Sawyer's stomach. (Photo courtesy of Pet Poison Helpline)

After the surgery, Sawyer went home to his family expecting to make a full recovery, however, the following day he started having dark red urine. The dog’s red blood cell levels had decreased and was showing signs of zinc oxide poisoning, which normally wouldn’t be expected after his vomiting and surgery. The toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline speculated that the diaper cream must have adhered to the wad of hair ties, so the zinc oxide remained in his stomach at a dangerous level and continued to poison his system even after he vomited up a portion of the material. At that point, they decided to give Sawyer a blood transfusion due to the zinc oxide causing a destruction of Sawyer’s red blood cells leading to anemia (lower than normal red blood cell concentration).1

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, zinc poisoning from diaper rash cream is very rare due to the typically low concentration of zinc oxide and ingesting the cream makes most pets vomit on their own, ridding their body of the potential toxin.1 In Sawyer’s case, since the diaper rash cream adhered to the ties in the stomach for several days, the zinc was able to be absorbed and cause poisoning, similar to what we would see after a penny ingestion. In other potential cases, pets will develop vomiting and possibly a decreased appetite, both which typically resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention. When the zinc source is left in the stomach for a prolonged period of time, more severe poisoning can occur including hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), anemia, severe gastrointestinal irritation, and organ damage.1

“After 2 blood transfusions, Sawyer’s red blood cell concentration finally returned to normal,” Schmid added. “As if he hadn’t already been through enough, Sawyer’s incision from surgery then became infected and he needed to be treated with antibiotics. Fortunately, his incision healed, his body was able to regenerate red blood cells on its own so he did not require more transfusions, and he made a full recovery.”1

Pet Poison Helpline created Toxin Tails to educate the veterinary community and pet lovers on the many types of poisoning dangers facing pets, both in and out of the home. All the pets highlighted in Toxin Tails have been successfully treated for the poisoning and fully recovered.1


Diaper cream and hair ties – A poisonous combination. News release. Pet Poison Helpline. January 10, 2024. Accessed January 10, 2024. https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/toxintails/diaper-cream-and-hair-ties-a-poisonous-combination/

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Renee Schmid, DVM
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