Keep masks out of reach of pets, experts say

With mask mandates in place in many states, Tufts University veterinarian Elizabeth Rozanski advised pet owners to make sure their pet doesn’t get its paws on their mask.

One Massachusetts hospital has seen 11 dogs that either ate or were believed to have eaten a mask.

“Face masks are pretty new to daily life for most of us,” Rozanski said. “Some dog owners may be used to their pet being OK after eating a greasy paper towel or pooping out a sock. However, they need to know that cloth masks and the medical-grade paper masks don’t dissolve that quickly, and the ties or ear loops can lead to a dangerous linear obstruction.”

Linear foreign body obstruction is a condition often seen in cats that eat yarn or string. One end of material gets stuck and anchored in the back of the mouth or stomach, while the rest continues to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. This eventually causes the small intestine to bunch up on itself like a scrunchie, said Tufts vet Catherine Stecyk. It can create a complete blockage or lead to the material becoming so taut that it saws through the intestine, causing life-threatening perforations.

Among other things, experts say pet owners should keep their masks out of reach of their pets and discard of them properly—including outside the home.