Foreign bodies in companion animals come in all shapes and sizes.. Some common offenders include; socks, shoes, fish hooks, squeaky toys, bones, hair ties, string, corn cobs, sanitary products, hoses/water systems, marbles, pegs, and tennis balls. Some breeds seem to be more frequent offenders with Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Bull Terriers often over representing the dogs and Siamese representing the cats.
The first signs may can develop from hours to days after ingesting the object depending on if it is a complete or partial obstruction. The first signs tend to be vomiting, lethargy and inappetence. On clinical examination they may have a temperature, elevated heart rate and be painful through the abdomen. Blood work performed by your vet may show elevations in muscle enzymes and a deficiency in body acids from vomiting. An X-Ray may be diagnostic, however, depending on what has been consumed and the nature of the obstruction they can be inconclusive and repeat radiographs or an surgical exploration may be needed.
Some foreign bodies may be able to pass with supportive care only which may include an IV drip and medications for pain however, the vast majority require surgical removal. If a foreign body is left untreated then intestinal perforation, severe infection and inflammation, sepsis, shock and death are likely to proceed.
Patients with an unperforated foreign body tend to recover well. The longer the foreign body is left the more damage it is able to do. In severe cases some parts of the intestines may need to be removed.
Post surgery risks include surgical breakdown, infection, formation of a stricture and intestinal stasis, however, most patients that are diagnosed and treated early have an excellent outcome.
To decrease the risk of your pet getting a foreign body be careful what toys you buy them, throw away old or broken toys, don’t feed cooked or dried bones, dog/cat proof your house and yard and be careful what you leave lying around the house including socks and hair ties!
If you’re not sure and your pet is vomiting or attempting to vomit then please be sure to seek prompt veterinary advice.
Written by Dr Renee Pigdon