Foreign Bodies: When Should You Be Worried?

By Catie Wark
Published on: January 8, 2021

Foreign Bodies: When should you be worried?

A sewing needle, socks, string, hair ties, a metal ball, rawhide, rocks, carpet, toys, bones, corn cobs—the list is endless. We have seen pets come into the emergency room who have ingested all of these things and more! Foreign bodies are one of the most common cases we see at Evolution Vet. 

Pets are extremely curious and explore the world around them with their noses. This can lead them to test out the taste as well. Some breeds are predisposed to Pica, which is the compulsive ingestion of non-food items, such as cloth, plastic, and wood. Many dog owners also give their dogs bones and “treats” like corn cobs to chew on and realize later that this was not such a great idea. Overzealous dogs like Labradors will up and swallow things without even chewing! Cats, on the other hand, are notorious for playing with and eating string or hair ties, both of which can become stuck in the intestines and cause serious problems.

If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms, you will need to visit our emergency room: 

  • Vomiting, especially if repeated or if unable to keep down water
  • Diarrhea
  • Not eating
  • Straining or unable to defecate
  • Abdominal pain or changes in behavior when touched
  • Lethargy

If you saw your pet swallow something they aren’t supposed to, please call our 24-hour staff for advice, or come in to see us.  The sooner we know about it, the better. If the ingestion is caught within the first few hours, it may be possible to induce vomiting. Do not wait to find the object in their stool. Waiting for the foreign object to pass by itself could lead to a serious obstruction of the intestines, which may require expensive surgery and can even lead to death. 

Occasionally, if inducing vomiting is unsuccessful, we can perform Endoscopy. This involves placing the pet under anesthesia and using a special camera and retrieval tools to remove objects from the stomach. If a veterinarian is unable to retrieve the object with endoscopy, or there is a serious intestinal obstruction seen on X-ray or Ultrasound, surgery will likely be required to remove the object. Recovery time can be between 2-3 days in the hospital and 1-2 months at home. 

Preventing a foreign body disaster is key. You can do your part by keeping the house clean and gating off areas that are not safe for your dog. Keep small, swallowable objects out of reach of pets, and monitor them closely when playing with toys. Training is the best way to prevent your dog from eating something it is not supposed to. Here are a few different types of training ideas to help prevent an obstruction: 

Please call our team at Evolution Veterinary Specialists in Lakewood, Colorado at (720)510-7707 if you have any concerns about your pet!