What To Know If Your Pet Has Ingested A Foreign Object

Posted on: 29 July 2015


Pets can be curious, and both dogs and cats can try to chew -- and sometimes swallow -- interesting things. The problem is that these foreign objects may not pass right through the intestinal tract. Depending on what your pet has ingested, that foreign object may be poisonous, dangerous or simply not digestible, so it will stay in the stomach or intestines and will have to be removed surgically.

Signs That Your Pet Has Ingested Something Inedible

It can be tough to determine if your pet has swallowed something inappropriate. If you didn't actually see your dog or cat eat an object, you may only know something is wrong by how your pet acts.

A pet that has swallowed something inedible will show signs of not feeling well or being "off." The most obvious symptom is that your pet will show a decreased appetite or stop eating entirely. In some cases, you'll see that your pet has vomited or has diarrhea.

In very severe cases, your pet will not even be able to ingest water. It's important to treat this as an emergency and seek immediate veterinary care.

Diagnosing an Intestinal Obstruction and Deciding on Surgery

The good news is that a vet will be able to quickly assess the situation and confirm ingestion of a foreign object with an x-ray. It should be easy to identify the presence of an obstruction in the intestinal tract, but it can be a challenge to decide whether emergency surgery, non-emergency surgery or some other treatment is the best option. 

Your vet can make this decision based on how long it seems that the item has been in your pet's system, where it is and the size or shape of the objects. He or she will also assess whether it appears that the object has perforated any area of the intestinal tract.

What Happens During Intestinal Surgery

If your pet is very lucky, the vet may be able to perform endoscopic surgery, which means a very small incision is made and small instruments are inserted to grasp and remove the toy. 

In most cases, though, full surgery will be required. Your vet will put your pet under general anesthesia and make an incision over the area where the object is sitting -- stomach or intestines. Ideally, the object can be removed without complications. But sometimes, the foreign body can have caused some issues with loss of blood supply. If this has happened, the vet will need to take more time and remove dead or dying tissue in a process called resection and anastomosis. Other complications can include bloated and twisted sections of the stomach or intestines, which will have to be untwisted and correctly positioned. 

Finally, the vet will use a sterile solution to wash the intestinal cavity. This reduces the risk of infection. Then the animal is stitched back up.

How to Care for Your Pet After Surgery

Your vet will give you complete instructions for caring for your dog or cat following abdominal surgery. You will need to keep your pet still and prevent activity for about two weeks, depending on the type of surgery. It may be necessary for your pet to wear an e-collar that prevents it from licking or biting at the stitches.

You'll also need to keep an eye on your pet's behavior in case there are complications like torsion (twisting) after the surgery or infection.

Many pets make a full recovery after intestinal surgery. Following the operation, you'll want to take steps to prevent your pet from ingesting additional foreign objects, as repeated surgeries can weaken your pet's intestinal tract.

To learn more, contact a veterinary hospital like Providence Veterinary Hospital Inc