Foreign Body in Dogs & Cats
- Gastric foreign body is a term that refers
to any material other than food that is eaten and that results in a serious digestive problem in
- Foreign bodies such as toys, string,
clothing and plastic can become lodged in the stomach and create an
obstruction. Any household object your pet chews on can become a foreign body
- Dogs & Cats of any age are susceptible
to developing foreign body problems but this is most commonly seen in young
dogs less than 2 years of age. These youngsters are naturally curious and enjoy
- Although some smaller foreign bodies can
pass through the gut without getting stuck, the larger pieces can result in
serious gastrointestinal complications.
loss of appetite
bowel movements (wrong color, consistency or amount)
- A complete and thorough medical history
is important in diagnosing a gastric foreign body, including recent exposure or
known chewing on foreign material. Physical exam findings can help your veterinarian
determine the appropriate diagnostic tests. Test recommendations may include:
- Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) are an
important test. Unfortunately, not all foreign material is evident based on
initial X-ray. Sometimes the addition of a dye material like barium is
recommended to determine if a gastric foreign body and obstruction is present.
- Once a gastric foreign body is
diagnosed, blood tests may be run to
assess the general health of the dog. Since most gastric foreign bodies require
anesthesia for removal, blood tests are strongly recommended.
- Most dogs with a gastric foreign body
obstruction have been vomiting or not eating for a period of time.
- This leads to dehydration and
electrolyte imbalance. Your veterinarian will recommend hospitalization with
intravenous fluids prior to anesthesia.
your dog is more stable, he will be anesthetized and the foreign object will be
removed by one of two primary methods: endoscopy or surgery.
method can remove foreign objects within the stomach. If a significant amount
of the foreign material is located within the intestines, endoscopy may not be
the appropriate choice.
endoscope is a flexible tube with a camera attachment. The tube is placed
through the mouth into the stomach. After the foreign body is located, a
grabbing instrument is inserted through the endoscope. By guiding the tip of
the endoscope, the foreign object can be grasped and slowly pulled up through
the esophagus and out the mouth.
- Advantages of an endoscope is
the absence of an incision, which makes the recovery time quicker.
- Disadvantages of an endoscopic
removal is the inability to determine if there is any residual foreign material
in the intestines. Also, some types of foreign material cannot be grasped by
the small endoscopic grabbers, such as large rocks and balls.
- If your veterinarian does not have
endoscopic capability or the foreign material has a low chance of being removed
by an endoscope, surgery is recommended.
- After sedation, your dog will have his mid
abdomen shaved. An incision is made along the center of the abdomen. The
stomach and intestines are examined for foreign material or obstructions. After
localizing the foreign material, a small incision is made in the stomach or
intestine and the foreign material is removed. The incision in the stomach or
intestine is sutured. The body wall and skin is then
- Advantages of surgical removal of foreign
material is the ability to examine the entire intestinal tract for other
- Disadvantages include post-operative pain, prolonged
hospital stay and potential for infection from the stomach or intestinal
removal of the foreign material, the dog is continued on intravenous fluids until
vomiting has stopped and he is able to eat and drink without vomiting.
Post-operative pain medication such as butophanol as well as antibiotics may be
Based on the
severity of intestinal damage, your dog may require 2-5 days of hospitalization
- Once the dog is able to eat and drink
without vomiting, he is sent home.
For those dogs treated with endoscopy,
there is minimal at home care.
- Feed a bland diet
for two to three days and gradually return to a normal diet. Watch for not
eating or vomiting.
those dogs undergoing surgery, at home care includes incision care.
- Do not allow your dog to lick or chew at
- An Elizabethan collar may be needed. Watch
the incision for swelling or discharge.
- Sutures are generally removed in 10-14
- Feed a bland diet for two to three days and
gradually return to a normal diet. Watch for not eating or vomiting.
- The best way to prevent gastric foreign
bodies is to prevent access to objects that could be swallowed.
- Allow your dog to only chew on toys that
cannot be swallowed.
- If you suspect that your dog may have
ingested something that may not pass through his intestinal tract, contact your
- Waiting until your dog starts to vomit will
make removal of the foreign material more difficult and costly.