Boston's Animal Rescue League used the incident as a way to warn owners of the dangers that can come from not safely disposing of used paper face masks.

Dog eats paper face mask:
Credit: Animal Rescue League of Boston

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is currently caring for a dog that required "life-saving surgery" after eating a paper face mask, and is turning the incident into a teachable moment for all dog owners.

The pooch, named Gibbs, has since rebounded following surgery and is now "full of energy," but the animal rescue organization is urging people to make sure they properly dispose of their face masks in a covered wastebasket after use.

Face masks have become commonplace as a way of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask in public, whether you’re going to the grocery store or the park, and many cities in the U.S. are requiring face coverings in public.

Dog eats paper face mask:
Gibbs' X-ray showing a foreign body
| Credit: Animal Rescue League of Boston

Paper disposable masks, however, may be a danger to your pet, as they can often smell like food, and are often left in places where they are easy for pets to pick up — in an open trash can, or as litter on the street. Opting for a reusable mask that you place out of your pet's reach while at home, is an easy way to keep your furry friend out of danger.

"Masks can smell like food, and dogs or wildlife may think they’re a treat," ARL Boston said in a press release. "These items can cause massive stomach upset or intestinal blockages, and the metal nose wire in masks may cause a variety of health issues, including stomach and esophageal tears, as well as sepsis, which may prove fatal if not treated."

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The signs that a dog may have ingested a foreign body such as a face mask include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal tenderness or pain, decreased appetite, straining to defecate or producing small amounts of feces, lethargy, and changes in behavior, such as biting or growling when picked up or handled around the abdomen.

"We are all in this together, and it’s up to all of us to protect our pets and wildlife and to keep Massachusetts beautiful," the release concluded.

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