Every year Veterinary Practice News holds a contest called "They Ate What?" in which veterinarians and clinic staff send in X-rays and case descriptions of the craziest things their patients have swallowed.

The contest is a fun way to share offbeat incidents from the trenches of veterinary practice, but the stories do serve as a reminder that our pets need to be protected from the consequences of their dietary indiscretions. Here are a few highlights from the 2011 "They Ate What?" contest.

Grand Prize Winner:

Vanessa Hawksin, DVM, Bayshore Animal Hospital, Warrenton, OR

A dog came into the clinic because of hind leg lameness. The doctor ordered radiographs to look for musculoskeletal abnormalities, and found nine handballs in the dog’s stomach instead. (I assume these were unrelated to the dog’s lameness.)

Runners Up:

Lisa Anne Attanasi, DVM, Eaglewood Cliffs Veterinary, Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ

Wailen, a 12-year-old beagle, presumably was brought into the clinic with symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. His veterinarian ordered abdominal X-rays, which revealed a hodgepodge of foreign "stuff" in his stomach. During surgery, the doctor removed shoe laces, mulch, a knee high stocking, a plastic plant, plastic ties, and the bristles of a car snow-cleaning brush.

Jenny Yanson, practice manager, Suburbia North Animal Hospital

Tinkerbell, a 6-month-old bulldog, ate a metal slip collar, became ill, and was brought into her veterinarian’s office. X-rays revealed that this was not her first offense. Two slip collars were surgically removed from her stomach.

And a few of my favorites from the Honorable Mentions:

Melissa Seavey, Healthy Paws Veterinary Center, Westborough, MA

Ten baby bottle nipples were removed from the stomach of a 4-month-old golden retriever.

Stephen Crosby, CVT, VTS, New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, New Haven, CT

An owner was feeding peanut butter off a spoon to her Alaskan malamute, who managed to gulp down the treat while it was still attached to the spoon. X-rays showed that the dog had previously also eaten a piece of a collar and a toy.

Caitlin Fickett, Alaska Veterinary Clinic, Anchorage, AK

A dog came in for vomiting and eating grass. X-rays revealed a foreign body in the stomach. The next morning, an additional X-ray better showed the object — a hard plastic dinosaur.

Patti Klein Manke, DVM, Woodstock Veterinary Clinic, Woodstock, NY

Prince Edward, a 9-year-old bulldog, ate his owner’s false teeth after finding them in a bowl of ice cream. The teeth were returned to the owner. (Hopefully they were cleaned well before being put back into duty!)

For more cases, reprints of the X-rays, and other photographs, visit the Veterinary Practice News website. Anybody have a story to beat these?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: X-ray from New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine / via Veterinary Practice News