Intestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Understanding Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

What is it?

Intestinal foreign bodies in dogs refer to any objects or materials that are ingested and become lodged within the dog’s digestive system. These foreign bodies can range in size, shape, and composition and can cause a range of health problems, including obstruction, perforation, and infection.

How is it Treated?

The treatment of intestinal foreign bodies in dogs depends on the severity of the obstruction and any associated complications. In many cases, surgical removal of the foreign body is necessary to prevent further damage to the digestive system and reduce the risk of infection. Additional treatments such as antibiotics or supportive care may also be necessary in cases where the foreign body has caused infection or other health problems. 

Breed Predispositions

Labrador Retriever German Shepherd Golden Retriever Boxer Great Dane Bulldog Doberman Pinscher Rottweiler Irish Setter Weimaraner


After a long day at work, Julie returned home to find her beloved Labrador Retriever, Max, looking unusually lethargic and experiencing bouts of vomiting. Concerned about her furry companion’s well-being, she immediately took Max to the veterinarian for an examination. The vet discovered that Max had ingested a foreign body, which had become lodged in his intestines, causing his distress.

Foreign bodies in dogs are objects that enter a dog’s intestinal tract. They may be ingested accidentally or intentionally. Intestinal wall foreign bodies are usually found inside the stomach of the dog. However, they can also occur anywhere else in the gastrointestinal tract. Obstructions occur most often in the small intestine (63%), but foreign objects are found throughout the digestive system.

These include bones, toys, plastic bags, balloons, rubber bands, coins, batteries, buttons, screws, nails, glass fragments, toothpicks, hair clippings, and other items. Intestinal foreign body ingestion occurs most commonly in puppies and young dogs. This is due to the small size of their digestive system.

In addition, these animals tend to chew on everything, especially things such as toys and bones.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Gastrointestinal foreign bodies in dogs arise from all sorts of objects, such as bones, toys, stones, plants, grasses, sticks, and various household items like coins and socks. The causes of gastrointestinal foreign body ingestion can range from curious puppies swallowing a toy to a dog consuming something dangerous on the street or out in the garden.

Sometimes foods eaten by dogs contain small bones that can get stuck in the intestines. Other common causes include puppies exploring their surroundings and ingesting small items. Also, when a household has multiple pets, it can be hard to monitor what each pet eats, which may inadvertently result in ingesting foreign bodies. It’s also important to watch for anything left around the house that might tempt the inquisitive pup.

Causes of Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

In some cases, IFBs do not require medical attention. However, if the IFB becomes lodged in the intestine, it could lead to severe complications, including perforation, bleeding, infection, and even death. Therefore, removing these objects from your pet’s digestive system is very important. Dogs and cats undergoing surgery due to GI perforation have approximately a 60% mortality rate.

Symptoms of Intestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Intestinal foreign bodies in dogs are one of the most common causes of gastrointestinal issues in our canine companions. If your pup shows any of the following symptoms, it may be time to take them to the vet for testing:

  1. Poor appetite – if your pup suddenly stops eating, this could be one of the red flags associated with intestinal foreign bodies.
  2. Vomiting – your pup may also vomit any food they manage to eat if a foreign body blocks their stomach. The presence of blood may indicate that the foreign object has caused some internal damage and should be addressed by a vet as soon as possible.
  3. Abdominal pain and bloating – abdominal pain and bloating can both be symptoms of an intestinal foreign body, especially if your pup has been trying unsuccessfully to pass said object through its digestive tract for a while now.
  4. Changes in stool consistency or color – changes in either characteristic usually mean something is wrong internally and should constantly be monitored closely by your vet.

Other symptoms include diarrhea, anorexia, depression, weakness, and dehydration.

symptoms of intestinal foreign bodies in dogs

Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Diagnosing intestinal foreign bodies in dogs includes a physical examination, radiography, endoscopy, ultrasonography, computed tomography (CT), and abdominal surgery.

Physical Examination:

Physical examinations should always begin with thorough history taking and careful observation of the patient’s body condition. A detailed description of the object ingested should be obtained from the owner. This helps determine whether the object was swallowed intentionally or accidentally. It is also helpful to know what object was ingested, such as metal, wood, plastic, paper, etc.

Radiographic Imaging:

Abdominal radiographs are used to detect the presence of intestinal obstruction. X-rays provide images of the digestive system and surrounding organs. However, they cannot show the object’s exact position inside the intestine. Therefore, x-ray imaging is only practical when the object is suspected to be near the stomach or small intestines.

Endoscopic Procedures:

Endoscopes allow direct visualization of the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract. An endoscope comprises a light source, fiber optic cable, camera lens, and working channel. During endoscopy, the doctor inserts the scope through the mouth or anus and guides it along the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum, colon, rectum, and anus.

Abdominal Ultrasound Imaging:

Ultrasounds are noninvasive diagnostic tools that use sound waves to produce images of soft tissue structures. Ultrasounds are often used to examine the abdomen, pelvis, kidneys, bladder, uterus, ovaries, testicles, thyroid gland, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix, lymph nodes, blood vessels, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bone, and fetus.

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Treatment of Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Treatment depends on the location of the foreign body within the intestine. For example, objects located in the stomach should be removed surgically. Objects found elsewhere in the intestines can be removed using forceps or a sonde.

After removal, the patient should receive supportive care. If the object was swallowed, the owner should watch the animal closely for any clinical signs of complications.

A veterinarian should be contacted right away if there is any problem. Removal of the object is done either surgically or via forceps. After removal, the patient needs to be monitored carefully for any complications.

Veterinarians should be contacted immediately if any complications arise.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Intestinal Foreign Bodies?

The best way to prevent your dog from getting an intestinal foreign body is to be mindful of its environment. Monitor where and what they eat, especially when you are away from the house. Some foreign bodies can originate in the home, such as coins, paperclips, toys, and other items left around. A dog swallowing these objects could block part of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to dangerous and fatal consequences.

Ensure your dog only has access to pet-safe toys and treats with no small parts that can be chewed off or swallowed. Avoid giving them rawhide bones or other chewable treats with small pieces, as these can easily break into small chunks that are hard to digest.

Finally, feeding your dog appropriate foods is essential based on their breed and health needs. Allowing them free access to human food or table scraps can increase the risk of gastrointestinal issues as some foods may disagree with your pet’s digestive system.

Frequently Asked Questions

The answer is: it depends. A foreign object in the stomach can cause serious health risks for dogs, including a blockage of their gastrointestinal tracts, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Additionally, the foreign object can damage internal organs and lead to infection or bleeding.

You should seek medical attention immediately if your pet has ingested a foreign object. Vets usually diagnose gastric foreign bodies through imaging tests such as X-rays or ultrasounds. In addition, they may need exploratory surgery if the object is lodged in the stomach. Treatment typically involves surgically removing and extracting the offending item from the dog’s digestive system and treating any associated infections that could have been caused.

In some cases, vets may recommend leaving a minor (non-life threatening) piece of something like a chicken bone inside the stomach rather than performing surgery due to possible complications associated with removing them. However, this decision ultimately depends on how badly damaged any internal organs are, if there are signs of infection or bleeding, and whether or not the removal of the object is causing difficulty breathing.

Therefore, if your pet has swallowed an unrecognizable piece of food or material, you should have them checked out by your vet as soon as possible to discuss potential treatment options and reduce the risk of further health complications.

Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery Costs vary depending on the type of surgery performed, the location of the surgery, the surgeon’s skill level, and the hospital’s reputation. However, the average costs range from $3,000-$5,000.

The most common surgeries include removing the affected portion of the small intestines (jejunostomy), which costs around $4,500 and performing a colotomy, which costs around $2,500. Other surgeries include removing part of the large intestine (ileocecal resection) or the entire colon (colostomy). This surgery usually costs around $10,000.

The time frame for a dog to show clinical signs of intestinal blockage can be between a few hours to several days, depending on the severity and nature of the obstruction. Generally, signs may begin with vomiting, lack of appetite, abdominal pain or distention, diarrhea, weakness, or lethargy. As the condition progresses, more severe symptoms may include constipation or straining to defecate and bloody feces, rapid heart rate, pale gums, and depression.

The answer is yes, but experiencing gastrointestinal blockage can make pooping very difficult, and in the worst cases, the blocked material may cause constipation or even an intestinal perforation. Also, when a dog has a blockage, their intestines can partly or entirely be blocked off by something like an ingested toy, bone, grass clump, etc., so not as much waste can pass through its system as usual.

When it comes to preventing gastrointestinal (GI) foreign bodies in pets, there are several necessary steps pet owners can take. First and foremost, pets must be provided with plenty of safe chew toys designed just for them. Chew toys can help alleviate pets and make them less likely to seek out foreign objects, but they can also provide an alternative source while promoting healthy dental hygiene.

It’s essential that all household items that could become a choking hazard or cause blockage or damage to the GI tract be kept safely out of reach of your pet. This includes children’s toys, small electronic parts, rubber bands and balls, needles and pins, plastic bags and wrappers, rocks or dirt clods from outside, and sticks or twigs gathered from walks outdoors. In addition, any item small enough to fit your pet’s mouth is a potential risk.

When taking your pet on walks outdoors, pay close attention to where they are going and what they might be sniffing at or picking up their mouth. Allowing your pet free-range on uncultivated lands is fine as long as you keep a close eye on them; however, if allowed to roam about uninhibited on wild terrain such as those more heavily scrubbed by wildlife—they may pick up the scent of something tasty only to find its impossible to get rid of it without swallowing it first!

It’s also essential that any leftovers, such as food scraps, are disposed of properly: and not kept easily accessible around the house, as these can be pretty tempting once they emit scents! And finally, if you suspect that your pet has ingested a foreign body, it would be prudent to take them immediately to their vet so they can assess whether or not surgical intervention is called for to ensure safe passage through the digestive tract.

When a dog ingests a foreign body, several things can happen depending on what type of object is swallowed and the size of the item. Some foreign bodies can pass through the digestive system without incident; however, some can become lodged in the gut or stomach and cause medical emergencies such as gastrointestinal obstruction requiring surgery. Non-food items like pieces of plastic and other small debris may be broken down safely if they are small enough, but more oversized items could damage teeth or be scratched away by other digestive system food.

The procedure used to remove foreign bodies from dogs depends on several factors, such as the size and location of the object, as well as the underlying health of your pet. For example, endoscopic procedures may dislodge smaller objects using specialized instruments passed through the nose or throat. Other methods include removing more oversized items using forceps under general anesthesia or specialized surgical techniques like laparoscopy.

Before any surgery, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam of your dog, including radiographs (x-rays) and possibly even ultrasounds or CT scans to accurately locate where this item is in your pet’s body.

The prognosis for intestinal foreign bodies in dogs is generally reasonable. However, depending on the size and composition of the object, extraction may be required to remove it. If a thing is too large or obstructive to remove with surgery or manual removal, it may need to be removed using an endoscopic approach.

If your dog has swallowed a foreign object, it is essential to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. It is also important to try and induce vomiting if the object can be removed without causing severe harm. If you cannot remove the object, you may need to take your dog to the emergency room for surgery.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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