Case File

Puppy Swallows a Cigarette Lighter - a Case Story

by James Greenwood BVSc MRCVS

Here at Watkins and Tasker Vets, we are one of the few independent Practices to cover all of our own ‘out of hours’ cases.  It is often in the early hours of the morning that the most unusual cases present themselves.  As was the case when my phone alerted me to a particularly inquisitive young Golden Retriever puppy called Bryan who had decided, just before midnight, to swallow a cigarette lighter.

I discussed the events of the evening with Bryan’s owner and there was no mistaking that this mischievous pup had picked up the lighter and seized the opportunity to gulp it down rather than drop it on the spot! Of course, his owner did exactly the right thing and gave us a call immediately and we decided the best thing to do would be to examine Bryan and make a plan.


When we met at the Portishead Practice, Bryan was full of beans and looking very pleased with his latest choice of midnight snack.  However, despite this, a cigarette lighter can pose a number of dangers.  Firstly, if the lighter moved through from the stomach into the small intestines it could cause a physical blockage and secondly, if Bryan had chomped the plastic before swallowing, it could be leaking lighter fluid directly onto the delicate lining of his gastrointestinal tract.

We decided against making Bryan vomit the lighter back up, as this would potentially leave a trail of lighter fluid all the way up his oesophagus which could lead to ulceration of the delicate tissues or worse.

Instead, we proceeded to a general anaesthetic and took an X-ray of his abdomen – which confirmed the presence of the offending lighter lodged in his stomach.  It was decided the best course of action would be to remove the lighter surgically, so we performed what is known as a ‘gastrotomy’ where we make a surgical incision through the stomach wall to remove the foreign body.


The lighter was successfully removed and the stomach was given a good flush. Luckily, there was no damage to the lighter itself and all the fluid contents were encased safely in the plastic chambers.  Bryan was stitched up and spent a night in the hospital on pain relief.   He went on to make a full recovery.

Puppies are inquisitive by nature and will often explore with their mouths.   However, accidents do unfortunately happen so if you think your puppy may have eaten something they shouldn’t have then please do give us a call, day or night, to discuss whether treatment may be needed.

As a preventative measure, a good tip is to try and incorporate the ’leave it’ command as soon as possible into your puppy training schedule using positive training methods – which might then save you a midnight trip to the vets!

Only one question remained – after retrieval, would the cigarette lighter still work? I took it outside to see if I could re-ignite a spark, sadly though, whilst we managed to successfully save Bryan - the cigarette lighter had thrown in the towel!