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It’s no surprise that pets chew on and swallow things that they shouldn’t, and we can’t always watch their every move. While some foreign objects are small enough to naturally pass, others can get stuck and cause problems. Toxic items, such as zinc (like in pennies), can also pose a serious threat. Gastrointestinal obstruction is a very common surgical emergency in veterinary medicine, and is seen primarily in younger dogs.
Several items are particularly known for getting tangled and blocking a pet’s intestinal tract including toys (or pieces of toys), string, ribbon, socks, underwear, and rocks. Keeping these items out of a pet’s reach, combined with close monitoring, can prevent your pet from suffering an obstruction.
Symptoms of a foreign body impeding gastrointestinal tract:
• Abdominal pain.
• Abdominal swelling.
• Excessive drooling.
• Loss of appetite.
• Weight loss.
Identifying foreign bodies
Our veterinarians can typically detect most foreign bodies with an X-ray. If the item swallowed was translucent, a contrast study will need to be performed in order to determine where the item is located. This involves having your pet swallow a contrast medium which we can track through the intestinal track with a series of X-rays.
How do you remove obstructions from the stomach and intestines?
If foreign bodies are present in the stomach or intestine and cannot pass naturally, they need to be removed, usually through a surgical procedure. Our veterinarians will do an exploratory surgery to examine all of the abdominal organs to ensure that nothing has been damaged and determine the location of the blockage. Incisions can be made into the stomach and small intestines as needed to remove the lodged items. Occasionally, portions of the small intestine may have to be removed if the blockage has made them non-vital. Dogs and cats tend to heal very well from these types of procedures, however they may need to stay in the hospital for a few days for monitoring while they recover.
Some items that are lodged in the esophagus or stomach may be removable with an endoscope, however this procedure requires referral to a veterinary specialist.
If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of having a foreign body in the gastrointestinal tract, or you have witnessed them swallow an object, please contact our office immediately. Removing the article is very important.