What Is A Foreign Body?
We call anything that is in your animal that isn’t part of him or her and shouldn’t be there a foreign body.
For example grass seeds found in dogs eyes, ears, or feet; bits of plant in airways; toys, balls, bones, stones in the gastrointestinal tract and once we’ve even seen an airgun pellet in a dogs heart.
Foreign Bodies Can Cause Problems For Your Pet
Probably the most common type we see are those in a pet’s gastrointestinal tract i.e. something they’ve eaten that they shouldn’t.
These cause all sorts of problems. From mild tummy ache as they pass on through and out the other end, to serious life threatening situations when they lodge causing an obstruction.
It’s very important that intestinal foreign bodies are diagnosed as quickly as possible. A foreign body that is stuck in small intestine quickly cuts off the blood supply to that bit of intestine and it becomes very unhealthy and can die.
Symptoms To Look Out For
The most common symptoms of a gastrointestinal foreign body are:
- Vomiting (often frequently)
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Restlessness or lethargy
What Do I Do If My Pet Has Ingested A Foreign Body?
Obviously there can be a lot of variation in symptoms so if in any doubt get your pet checked.
Treatment usually involves surgery to remove the offending object. Occasionally gastric foreign bodies (ones in the stomach) can be removed via endoscopy. The animal will also need supportive treatment such as intravenous fluids and various medications.
Surgery involves exploring the abdomen, isolating the obstruction and either removing it via an incision into the intestine or if sections of intestines are damaged beyond recovery they may need to be removed.
Most animals stay in hospital for at least 48 hours after such surgery and sometimes much longer.
Although usually the animals recover well there can be several serious complications with such surgery, including peritonitis, wound infections and aspiration pneumonia. Every time a pet has this surgery again (some come in over and over again for the same thing) it increases the risk of complications they may not recover from.
It is important to train your pet not to eat things they shouldn’t from a young age. This can be hard work and some dogs will still have a tendency to eat things on walks etc. In this case these dogs need to be muzzled whenever it’s possible they could eat anything.
If you are having problems with this then you should phone the surgery and arrange an appointment with one of our behaviourists to discuss it.
Although it’s much rarer cats do still occasionally eat foreign bodies. They are more likely to have eaten wool or string. These cause a ‘linear foreign body’ which can be one of the worst types as the string gets stuck then can pull tight cutting into intestines. If your cat plays with and potentially could eat any sort of thread it is important to stop this and replace it with safe toys to keep him/her stimulated.