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Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency

Foreign Body Ingestion in Dogs

June blog photo golden retriever with vet

Dogs enjoy exploring the world with their mouths, but this activity can tempt them to ingest a non-food item, or foreign body, which can cause significant health issues. Our Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency team commonly treats dogs who have ingested a foreign body, and we explain all you need to know in case your canine friend is less than discerning about what they put in their mouth.

Common Foreign Bodies Ingested by Dogs

Dogs are not picky about what they put in their mouths and are likely to ingest just about anything. Common foreign bodies that dogs ingest include the following:

  • Bones

  • Stick and stones

  • Small toys

  • Clothing such as socks and underwear

  • Food packaging

  • Coins

  • Batteries

  • Corncobs

  • Needles and fishhooks

  • String and ribbon

Why Foreign Body Ingestion is Dangerous for Dogs

Your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract flows in one direction. However, the stomach can send its contents up and out of the mouth. Once an ingested object reaches a dog’s small intestine, the item can only move one way through the digestive tract, being digested if possible. Dogs cannot digest foreign bodies, which can cause the following complications:

  • GI blockage — Objects can become stuck in the stomach or intestines, preventing normal food passage and leading to severe discomfort and potentially life-threatening conditions.

  • Perforation — Sharp objects and linear foreign bodies, such as string and ribbons, can cause perforation of the stomach or intestines and lead to a severe, body-wide infection.

  • Toxicity — Some foreign objects, such as batteries and certain plants, are toxic to dogs.

Foreign Body Obstruction Signs in Dogs

Signs of foreign body ingestion vary depending on the amount of time the foreign body has been in the dog’s digestive tract, the object's location, the blockage’s extent, and what the object is made of. Commonly noted signs include:

  • Vomiting or unproductive retching

  • Inappetence

  • Abdominal pain along with whining, restlessness, and tense abdomen

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Lethargy

  • Coughing or gagging

What to Do if You Suspect Your Dog Has Ingested a Foreign Body

A dog who has ingested a foreign body can become severely ill. If you know or suspect your dog ingested a foreign body, follow these steps:

Step 1: Don’t panic — Stay as calm as possible so you can comfort your dog and get them the care they need.

Step 2: Get veterinary advice — Don’t attempt to induce vomiting or provide any other treatment until speaking with a veterinarian. Vomiting can cause more harm, especially if the object is sharp or caustic. In addition, if you see a string emerging from your dog’s anus, don’t pull on it. This can damage the intestinal lining.

Step 3: Seek veterinary care — Foreign body ingestion is often an emergency, and you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Foreign Body Obstruction Diagnosis and Treatment in Dogs

GI foreign body obstruction is diagnosed based on your dog’s signs and history. In some cases, the object can be felt through the abdominal wall, and abdominal X-rays are typically necessary to confirm a GI foreign body and determine the item’s location. Other tests, such as blood work, contrast X-rays, and ultrasound, may also be recommended. Linear foreign bodies are much more difficult to locate and may require exploratory surgery. If the foreign body is small enough and remains in the stomach, our team may be able to remove it via endoscopy, but most foreign body obstructions require surgical removal.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Ingesting a Foreign Body

Because dogs are not picky about what they put in their mouths, you need to prevent your dog from swallowing something their body cannot digest. To help decrease your dog’s foreign body ingestion risk, follow these tips:

  • Supervise play — Monitor your dog during playtime and prevent them from chewing sticks and rocks when outdoors.

  • Choose safe toys — Provide durable toys that are appropriate for your dog’s size and chewing strength.

  • Dog-proof your home — Keep small objects, clothing, and trash out of your dog’s reach.

  • Proper diet — Avoid giving your dog bones or other food items that can splinter or cause blockages.

Foreign body ingestion in dogs is a common but mostly preventable hazard. By understanding the risks, recognizing the signs, and taking preventive measures, you can help keep your canine companion safe. If you suspect that your dog has ingested a foreign object, contact Mountainside 24/7 Animal Emergency to ensure they receive prompt and effective treatment. With vigilance and care, you can protect your dog from the dangers of foreign bodies and maintain their health and well-being