Pacifiers, superballs, tinsel…We’ve surgically removed a wild variety of ingested items from pets.
When an animal ingests something other than food and the item gets lodged somewhere in the GI tract, it’s called a foriegn body obstruction. In some cases, the object will pass naturally. Other times, the lodged object can partially or fully obstruct the GI tract, which can cause perforation, laceration or blockage, leading to serious injury or death.
Foriegn body obstruction is a life-threatening and expensive veterinary emergency. Pets usually present to our ER with signs of acute vomiting and abdominal pain. Emergency veterinarians have a handful of tools at their disposal, two most common being open abdominal surgery or endoscopy.
Abdominal surgery includes placing the pet under full anesthesia and cutting into the abdomen to remove the object directly from the GI tract. Endoscopic removal, while still requiring general anesthesia, is less invasive. A lit camera is passed through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. A claw-like device or snare can then be used to grasp and remove the object via reversing back through the mouth.
As a responsible pet parent, you can play an important part in preventing these painful and costly emergencies. The most obvious thing to do is remove the most commonly ingested and dangerous items from your pet’s path. For cats, these include string, earplugs, needles, ribbons, and the front of nerf darts. Dogs, notorious for eating pretty much anything, commonly ingest rocks, toys, corncobs, underwear, socks and Legos.
Clearing your home of hazards to your pets and knowing the signs to watch for can prevent your pet from having to undergo one of these complicated procedures…and save you from becoming the owner of some very expensive hair ties.
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Emily Kalenius, DVM