Understanding Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs
What is it?
How is it Treated?
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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.
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:
- Poor appetite – if your pup suddenly stops eating, this could be one of the red flags associated with intestinal foreign bodies.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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
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