Dog Toffee recovering from his ordeal in a hospital kennel

Puppy at death's door after swallowing face mask

Blue Cross is warning dog owners to be vigilant after a puppy narrowly avoided death after swallowing a fabric facemask.

Dog Toffee happy on a walk through long grass
Toffee is now back home, happy and healthy

Eleven-month-old cavalier king charles spaniel Toffee needed emergency surgery after he was rushed into our animal hospital in Victoria, central London, after vomiting at home.

An ultrasound showed there was an item in the puppy’s stomach, but senior vet Roisin Bolger was shocked to find it was a whole large cloth face mask which was blocking the puppy’s stomach and small intestine when she operated.

Toffee’s owner, Jess Busby, who lives with her three children in London, said: “We were so shocked when the vet rung us to tell us what she had found. We still don’t know where he got hold of the mask.

“We do sometimes let him off lead when we go out on walks but there wasn’t anything immediate in Toffee’s demeanour to let us know anything was wrong, plus he’s so tiny we wouldn’t have thought he’d be able to swallow something like that!”

Ms Busby said Toffee had been treated for an upset stomach but they put that down to a change in the food they were feeding him.

She said: “We had noticed he had an upset belly and had some diarrhoea. We spoke to a vet and explained we had recently changed his food so they advised us to feed him a bland diet and prescribed some medication so we thought he would get better.

“But after a week we noticed Toffee was just really lethargic and had lost weight, you could see the bones in his back and suddenly his whole demeanour just changed and he vomited.

"The sudden change over two weeks was terrifying, and we decided to call Blue Cross for a second opinion straight away.

“The vet advised us to come straight down to the hospital the same day. We were so worried as he was put on a drip. I have three children too and they were so worried for Toffee.”

Toffee was kept overnight at the Blue Cross animal hospital in Victoria, London, and ultrasound showed there was something in his stomach.

Ms Busby said: “When the vet called us to say they could see a shadow on his tummy and that they were going to have to operate we thought Busby might have swallowed a toy, perhaps while we were sleeping at night, or some chewing gum while we were out and about as there is lots of it around us and we try to keep him on a tight lead around it.

“When the vet called us to tell us they had removed a full facemask from Toffee I just couldn’t believe it, I was really shocked and also shocked because Toffee is so tiny! It’s terrifying to think that could have been inside him for two weeks.”

Since surgery, Toffee has bounced back and is back to his puppy self.

Ms Busby added: “We’re keeping extra eyes on him but he’s running around as if nothing happened and is back to his old self. It’s really great to see and my children are so glad to have him back home, we really can’t thank Blue Cross enough for their care and for saving Toffee’s life.”

Vet Roisin added: “Toffee was really lucky to be brought into us when he was because blockages of the stomach and intestines like this are life-threatening.

“We knew something was inside him from the ultrasound, but we thought it must be a chewed-up toy or something, I couldn’t believe it when I found the entire mask. Luckily for Toffee the operation was swift and it’s great to see he has made a speedy recovery.

“We’d urge dog owners to be vigilant around the home and when out and about on walks, especially those with young puppies and kittens, as we’ve removed a few items from pets recently including chewed up toys and rubber balls. I know when I’ve been out and about I’ve spotted many a discarded facemask too.

“If you think your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t, or you are concerned about repeated vomiting then always contact your vet for advice.”

— Page last updated 19/02/2021