The ingestion of foreign bodies is a frequent cause of consultation. Sometimes, swallowed objects can go unnoticed and be eliminated in the normal way, naturally, in the stool. But ingestion of a foreign body can, in other cases, cause various symptoms that are sometimes very serious. The symptoms observed are variable and depend essentially on the size of the foreign body ingested, its location and the time between ingestion and consultation.
Young dogs are often exposed. Terrier dogs also seem predisposed (Westie in particular).
In puppies and young dogs, it is essentially exploratory behavior that is at the origin of the ingestion of foreign bodies: any new object will be brought to the mouth and potentially ingested.
In hyperactive and destructive dogs, this complication can also occur when the animal bites an object and breaks it into several pieces.
A very “voracious” dog can throw himself on a bulky food (bone,…) or a foreign body, mistaking it for something edible.
Some elderly, senile dogs with cognitive impairment and / or depression may also start to ingest inedible objects.
Depending on the location, size and nature of the foreign body, the time between ingestion and consultation, the size and age of the animal, the severity of symptoms can vary greatly.
Gastrointestinal obstruction, partial or total may occur.
When a foreign body is stuck in the oral cavity, the symptoms may be as follows: chewing, salivation, inability to open the mouth or, conversely, to close it, presence of blood in the mouth, bad breath.
In the presence of a foreign body in the esophagus, the dog may make efforts to vomit or regurgitate, may hypersalivate and sometimes exhibit respiratory distress if the foreign body, large, exerts a compressive effect on the trachea (“pipe” located right next to the esophagus, which carries air to the lungs). The dog cannot, in general, eat.
When the foreign body gets stuck in the stomach, the symptoms can sometimes be very crude. Given the large size of the stomach pouch, only a few rare vomiting can be noted and the dog can continue to feed. When the foreign body is less well tolerated (large object or blunt surface, small dog, etc.), acute vomiting is present. Traces of blood may be present.
During intestinal foreign body, the symptoms are often more important, in particular when the object is blocked in the first part of the intestine: the vomiting is often marked, associated with a depression of the dog. The dog can be very dehydrated from vomiting. He has a tendency to have a tense abdomen, can put himself in a “prior” position (hindquarters raised and forelegs lowered), wanting to stay upright or having difficulty finding his place and lying down. If the obstruction is in the second part of the intestine (at the level of the colon), vomiting, diarrhea (possibly with traces of blood) or constipation may be present.
Any foreign body can be associated with a digestive perforation: in this context, the symptoms are often very marked (depression, fever, abdominal pain, possible breathing difficulties, etc.).
In some cases, an animal can ingest a foreign body which will then implant itself in the respiratory tract (trachea, bronchi) instead of going into the digestive tract: in this context, respiratory disorders (cough, shortness of breath, etc.) are objectified.
Sometimes, finally, digestive foreign bodies can be regurgitated or vomited, and, instead of being eliminated through the mouth, they get stuck in the nasopharynx, the anatomical area just behind the nasal cavities: snoring, sneezing and sneezing. nasal discharge is then present. Most often, blades of grass get stuck in this area.
The diagnostic approach first requires a precise general clinical examination of your animal. Careful examination of the oral cavity, palpation of the neck and abdomen, and a digital rectal examination can sometimes be sufficient to reveal a foreign body.
Secondly, chest or abdominal x-rays can be taken and are often an essential additional examination. If the foreign body is radio visible (bone, metallic foreign body), the foreign body can be directly objectified; if this is not the case, it is not directly visible but indirect signs can sometimes direct the veterinarian towards this diagnostic hypothesis.
Other additional exams may be offered to you:
- an abdominal or chest ultrasound
- blood tests to assess complications following vomiting
- an endoscopy of the digestive or respiratory tract *
- a scanner, more rarely *
Some exams (those marked *) require general anesthesia.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the dog’s condition, hospitalization and an infusion are often necessary. Digestive dressings also.
To remove the foreign body, several treatments are possible. It essentially depends on the location and any complications:
- simple anesthesia to remove a foreign body deep in the mouth.
- endoscopic / fibroscopic examination under anesthesia to remove the foreign body by natural means.
- thoracic or abdominal surgery and incision of the digestive tract. In more severe cases, digestive tract necrosis may require the removal of a portion of the animal’s digestive tract. The use of analgesics and antibiotics is associated with these treatments.
The ingestion of foreign bodies is a frequent reason for consultation which can very often require surgical management. The earlier the visit to a veterinarian, the faster the diagnosis, and the better the prognosis for your animal after treatment.