Beware intestinal foreign bodies in your pets

Beware intestinal foreign bodies in your pets

Richard McGuire photo

By Dr. Moshe Oz 

Animals never cease to amaze me with the things they are able to swallow. 

Unfortunately, swallowing foreign bodies is a common phenomenon in both dogs and cats. 

This behaviour can stem from either playfulness, ingestion of the foreign material by mistake, or simply due to being gluttonous, trying to eat whatever they can grab.

The most common complication is the lodging of the foreign body in the esophagus, stomach or intestine, and causing complete or partial blockage.

Any household object your pet chews on can become a foreign body problem. 

Many times the owner does not witness the ingestion and is not aware or sure that the animal has ingested something they shouldn’t have. Hence, it’s important to be aware of symptoms that are associated with obstruction.

The most common symptom associated with gastrointestinal foreign body is vomiting. In a complete obstruction the vomiting will be profound and frequently will be accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, and depression. A pet with an untreated case of complete obstruction will probably die within only a few days. 

In a partial obstruction the symptoms will be less severe and intermittent. The animal will lose weight, but as long as the animal keeps drinking it may live three or fourweeks.

Foreign bodies are usually diagnosed by imaging. Some foreign bodies can also be diagnosed by ultrasound or an endoscopic exam.

Once the diagnosis of foreign body is established, the treatment depends on the location of the object and the pet’s medical condition. In many cases a surgical intervention is required.

Beside removing the object, most animals also require hospitalization with intravenous supply of fluids till the animal gets back on track and is able to drink and eat on its own. 

Prevention is very important and may spare your animal from getting through a very painful and potentially life-threatening condition. It is important to pet proof your house. Keep away any object that your pet might ingest. 

Always pay attention to the toys you are giving to your pet. Make sure that they are not easily coming apart into smaller pieces that can be swallowed and cause obstruction. 

Your vet can guide you which toys and treats are ideal for your specific pet.

(Dr. Oz is a veterinarian at Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital.)