Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Dogs

When it comes to eating things they shouldn’t, dogs are consummate professionals. In fact, the clinical term for this problem is “pica,” which describes the urge to eat objects that aren’t food. As you can probably guess, this tends to lead to ingestion of some pretty bizarre items by our canine companions.

Foreign body ingestion is a common problem in dogs.

Foreign body ingestion is a common problem in dogs. Dogs, especially younger ones, like to chew on things and often pick up items off the floor that they should not. These objects can be dangerous because they may cause a blockage in the digestive tract and/or perforation of the stomach or intestines.

Owners often fail to realize their dog has ingested something until the clinical signs develop. When the foreign body passes into the stomach, it may cause mild abdominal distention and pain that is relieved by eating or drinking.

Pica (compulsive eating) is a common reason for the ingestion of foreign bodies by dogs.

Pica is a common reason for the ingestion of foreign bodies by dogs. Pica is a behavioral problem rather than a medical condition and it’s characterized by consuming non-food items, such as stones or soil. This behavior may be due to a nutritional deficiency or other underlying cause, but most often there is no obvious explanation for this compulsive behavior in dogs.

In most cases, pica does not cause significant health problems for your dog if he eats only small amounts at one time; however, large quantities of foreign objects can lead to intestinal blockages that require surgery to remove them from the intestinal tract (e.g., magnets).

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The most commonly ingested objects are fabric, foam rubber, string, toys, and bones.

The most commonly ingested objects are fabric, foam rubber, string, toys and bones. A bone is more likely to cause problems than other objects because of its hard surface and sharp edges.

Possible complications include blockage of the intestinal tract (impaction), perforation of the intestinal lining (peritonitis), obstruction at another site along the gastrointestinal tract, or obstruction in another part of their body such as the lungs.

Dogs with foreign bodies in their GI tracts may show signs of vomiting, retching, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

If your dog has ingested a foreign body, you’re likely to see the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting (often bloody)
  • Retching
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

Other signs of foreign body ingestion include loss of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, pale gums and weakness. The affected dog may also show lethargy or a decrease in activity level.

Depending on the size and shape of the object, it may become lodged anywhere along the GI tract.

Depending on the size and shape of the object, it may become lodged anywhere along the GI tract. The majority of foreign bodies that are ingested by dogs pass through their system without incident. However, if your dog ingests a large or sharp object that cannot pass through, he may require surgery to remove it.

The most common location for objects to lodge are in either the stomach or intestines:

  • Stomach: The stomach is an elastic organ with a protective coating called mucus. Objects such as toys can become lodged in this area and usually pass out on their own within 24 hours. If an object remains in your dog’s stomach for longer than 24 hours, you should seek veterinary care immediately because there may be risk of perforation (a hole forming) if not removed promptly.
  • Intestines: Smaller objects tend to get stuck here because they are more difficult for dogs’ systems to process as quickly as possible.* Rectum: This is another potential location where foreign bodies can get stuck due to its narrow diameter and proximity from other organs (e.g., bladder).
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Surgery is necessary to remove foreign bodies that become lodged in the stomach or intestines.

Surgery is only indicated if the object is obstructing the GI tract and cannot be removed by other means, such as vomiting or laxatives. If your pet’s symptoms have resolved and there are no signs of obstruction, it is unlikely that surgery will be necessary at this time; however, you should still keep an eye on him and watch for any new symptoms over the next few days.

If a foreign body becomes lodged in your dog’s stomach, surgical removal will be necessary to extract it. The risk associated with this type of procedure varies depending on both the specific location of where it was ingested (i.e., whether it was swallowed whole) as well as how long ago ingestion occurred.

Conclusion

So if you have a dog, you’ll need to keep an eye on him at all times. Don’t let him eat anything he shouldn’t, and make sure any bones he plays with are very small in size. To prevent foreign body ingestion in your dog, you should also make sure that any toys or items he plays with are too big for him to swallow.