Dogs and cats survive eating all kinds of weird things - but you can save them distress by keeping common household items away from them.

Not long after adopting a 6-month-old lab/German shepherd mix named Libby, Erin Truter of Springfield started noticing things were missing from her family’s home.

“It started about three weeks after we adopted her, the kids toys started missing,” Erin said. “It wasn’t until I took the pooper scooper in the backyard and realized that in one pile we had G.I. Joes; in another pile, there were magnetics; and then in another pile were two of their Nintendo DS games.

“The last pile was classic. I found two ink pens and my husband’s toothbrush.”

Erin’s family eventually found a home better suited to Libby. But the family was among a number of people who learned that the saying “This too shall pass” holds new meaning when you consider the variety of items some pets have eaten ... and passed.

People told us their pets have consumed all kinds of things not meant for animal consumption. Socks proved popular with the canine crowd. But so did Halloween candy, a bag of brown sugar, Hostess Suzie Q’s and one family’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Humans might understand why Rover would eat those tasty items. But other household companions have swallowed all kinds of hard plastic items, decorative lights and the aforementioned oral hygiene product.

“Puppies like to chew on things with human scent on them, like TV remotes and glasses,” says Dr. Chris Curry, veterinarian and owner of Laketown Animal Hospital in Springfield.

That might explain some of the things Curry has seen consumed by pets over the past 14 years of treating animals: underwear, a leather boot (surgery produced the tongue of the boot with the tag still intact), straight pins off a new men’s dress shirt, corn cobs, tampons, rings, hair holders, towels and carpeting.

Shanny, a Siberian husky, clearly concerned about saving for the future, ate a $100 bill.

“After waiting a day or two (and being prepared with a lot of rubber gloves), she gave it back to me,” said Shanny’s owner, Springfield teacher Lindy Wilkinson. “Someone had said to keep it and try to send it to the U.S. Treasury to see if they would exchange it. I cleaned it up (again with the rubber gloves) and sent it in, figuring ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ I wasn’t going to use that money anyway. A few weeks later, I received a check from the U.S. Treasury for $100.”

Stephanie White’s chow/Shar-Pei mix, Winston “Winnie” Dale, ate a cassette tape of a popular movie soundtrack when she was 2. After taking her to the vet, who gave her a liquid treatment to induce vomiting and bowel movements, the family settled in to wait.

“Poor baby was ill the rest of the day. Late into the evening, she finally passed the whole bound-up wad of cassette tape,” said Stephanie. “We just couldn’t believe that she ate the whole thing. She must not have liked ‘Footloose.’”

Watch what they eat

While these stories may seem funny in retrospect, they illustrate how seemingly innocent household items — or even simply giving Fido a nibble off your dinner plate — could lead to a medical emergency for pets.

“Many things people may not be aware that are dangerous to dogs are grapes, apple seeds, raisins, onions, chocolate, anti-freeze, sugar-free gum, bread dough and some household plants,” Curry said.

And it doesn’t even need to be edible. Grant Walker of Springfield wrote in about his dog, Buster, who liked to consume the batteries inside television remotes. It didn’t help that in his younger years, the now 18-year-old Grant liked to take apart remotes, leaving the batteries exposed.

“Whenever the remote would fall to the ground, Buster would eat the batteries,” Grant wrote. “This led us to buy a new remote, and we never found any more batteries. Luckily, Buster swallowed the batteries and didn’t chew them.”

Curry says cats are generally more discriminating than dogs.

“But cats do eat things, linear foreign bodies,” he said. “Things like yarn, thread, dental floss and string can have a damaging effect in the small intestines and can be fatal.”

Jody Grimmett of Rochester wrote in about a feline with a Homer Simpson-like preference.

“My husband’s cat, Bobcat, decided he likes powdered-sugar doughnuts,” Jody said in an e-mail.

“If he smells them, he will actually jump on the table and try to snatch one. He is relentless, so when offered a bite, he gobbles it up. He won’t eat any other sweet or type of doughnut.”

Keith and Linda Gray of Carlinville came home from a vacation in 2003 to find that their cat, Bob, had broken into the kitchen cabinets and ate the Wilton’s candy chips used for making candy.

“He also loved to eat corn on the cob and pork rinds,” Linda added.

Casey Mayfield of Springfield raises Labrador retrievers and asked this e-mailed question: “What haven’t they eaten?”

Her list proved extensive. Her dogs have eaten bungee cords, coax cable, tree bark, electrical cords (plugged and unplugged), snow fence, solar lights, aluminum or tin cans, lawn chairs, hot tub covers, garden hoses, Styrofoam, siding, softballs and/or footballs, cheesecake wrappers and peanuts in the shell.

Of course, a curious, hungry pet doesn’t necessarily mean a pet behaving poorly.

“Compiling this list makes it sound like we have really horrible dogs, but honestly we don’t,” Casey said. “Our dogs are very well-behaved — they don’t jump, they respond immediately to the command ‘kennel up,’ and they are excellent retrievers as well as family pets. Almost all of the destruction of the items listed above occurred when the dogs were between 6 and 24 months of age.”

No matter what type of situation, when it comes to your pets, Curry offers this piece of advice:

“When in doubt, call your vet.”

Dangers to your pets

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, these are just a few of the foods, plants and other common household items that can cause serious problems for your pet if Fido or Fluffy eat them.

PLANTS
Azaleas and other rhododendron family plants, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, hyacinth bulbs, milkweed, most species of lily bulbs, holly berries, tobacco products, oak, rhubarb leaves

FOODS
Avocado (in dogs), chocolate, eggplant, tomato leaves and stems, onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, castor beans, alcoholic beverages

If your think your pet has eaten these items, or if your pet is vomiting, has diarrhea or is staggering, call you veterinarian right away.

Other pet temptations

Mikki Buhl’s terrier mix Belle once devoured over half a loaf of bread. She and her housemate, a maltipoo named Maize, also raided the Halloween candy bowl, leaving wrappers strewn around. Lola Lucas’ black standard poodle Finnegan (now deceased) wrote that her dog could have “easily been voted Least Likely to Die of Old Age with his unfortunate penchant for eating fabric.” Favorite items included underwear, dress socks, athletic socks, upholstery stuffing, tights, contact lens foil, plastic containers and Berber carpet. Despite three surgeries to remove offending items, Finnegan did indeed die of old age. Tricia Patterson’s Siberian husky Boscoe shreds stuffed animals, wood trim, carpet and assorted other items. “He really loves the outdoors more, and I would never bring him back in the house unattended.” Adele Malerich’s Boston terrier Lou Henson (now deceased) ate an uncooked rib-eye steak. Upon being chased, Lou swallowed the steak whole. When owner Adele called the vet’s office to ask if the steak could hurt him, the staff replied: “Not that dog.” The Hatfield family’s Jack Russell named Maggie is sneaky. The 11-pound dog waits for the kids to set down their Halloween candy buckets so she can rummage through them sniffing for Tootsie Rolls. Jennifer Keith tells us her golden retriever Chipper and Great Pyrenees Pepper are the Butch and Sundance of the canine set. These two partners in crime devoured an entire box of Hostess Suzi Q’s at Christmas. Anne Stombaugh’s pet Bootz ate a Greetings Workshop compact disc. “I had to feed him about a half a loaf of bread so it would bind around any sharp edges, but he was fine.” Owner Sheryl Wells wrote in about their standard poodle that, as a puppy, ate a disposable razor. The poodle enjoyed a full recovery after surgery. Tammy Moody’s terrier eats clipped off toenails. Former Springfieldian Keith Moore, who now lives in Arizona, e-mailed about his dog Trixie eating desert landscaping rocks after he accidentally dripped steak juice over the rocks after grilling. “No more cooking over rocks … the grass will do just fine.” Denise James’ puppy ate most of a two-pound bag of brown sugar and a box of tacks. “Thankfully his appetite for the odd calmed down as he got older,” Denise wrote. Kerry Rinker’s dog Lou once ate an entire tub of Vaseline. Dog Pete ate an entire bowl of Halloween candy bars. “They went in wrapped and came out the same way,” Kerry’s e-mail said. Labrador mix Lincoln ate pine cone bird feeders. Owner Lori Reardon noted that Lincoln “didn’t learn his lesson the first time he ate one. We eventually moved the pine cone feeders to higher spots on our trees.” Derry Dalby’s Labrador Lucy ate a sterling silver earring and a cell phone.