How does this happen?
It can be a dog toy, a string, or even an item of clothing, the possibilities are endless even if your pet has chewed socks many times before, it can still cause a blockage. Ingesting non- digestible materials may not seem to have an effect on the pet the first day as it passes through to the stomach, but as it moves into or through the intestines it can becomes lodged. The intestines and gastro-intestinal tract will become more inflamed as the pet begins eating and subsequently vomiting because food cannot move through in the normal fashion. Pets will present with vomiting, painful belly, hunched stance, sometimes there may or may not be blood or very loose stool. In severe cases the intestine can become perforated or have a hole leaking feces into the abdominal cavity, this can cause shock or even death, so it is important to tell your veterinarian if your pet is likely to chew things up. Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to tell your vet that you pet has eaten something, we understand as veterinary professionals we tend to have multiple pets that sometimes eat things they aren’t supposed to as well.
Things to be aware of.
If your pet is even slightly suspected of having a blockage and is vomiting the vet may not give any anti- nausea medication. These medications treat the sign and symptom of vomiting but not the cause. Some nausea medications also cause intestinal motility and contractions, meaning if there is an object inside the intestines it has a higher chance of perforating the intestines.
How do we determine if surgical removal of a foreign body is needed?
There are many ways of determining is removal is necessary, it starts in the physical exam if your pet experiences pain upon abdominal palpation, the doctor may request x-rays. Sometimes x-rays can tell us what we need to know and may be repeated to determine if the object is moving. Often times we preformed what we call a barium study where your pet is given barium which is a radio-opaque pet safe substance that shows up white on an x-ray. Then a series of x-rays are taken over the next 6-8 hours to determine if there is a blockage. This can give us definitive proof of a blockage. Surgical removal and recovery of the ingested item is maybe performed if needed.
The good news is foreign body obstruction can mostly be prevented, although this issue is normally cause by some benign normal object that we wouldn’t suspect. Keep things picked up off the floor and out of your pets’ reach. When not home or able to monitor your pet confine them to a pet safe room, area or kennel. When not monitored do not leave toys or beds in your pet’s cage if they are prone to chewing things. Most of all if you see your pet chewing something, or a toy is becoming damaged or frayed throw it out.