Dogs are curious by nature. New sights, tastes and smells always attract plenty of attention. Unfortunately, this can lead to trouble. Dogs are notorious for swallowing pieces of paper, dishcloths, clothing, sticks, toothpicks, bones, food wrappers, rocks and other foreign objects.
Many of these objects will pass through the intestinal tract without any difficulty. It is common for dog owners to report finding all sorts of objects in their dog’s stools or vomit but, sometimes, these items do not pass through and your pet is left with a foreign body obstruction.
WHERE AND WHY DO ‘FOREIGN BODIES’ GET STUCK?
If your dog has a bowel obstruction, they will not only experience a lot of pain, they will also be at risk for some serious consequences. A bowel obstruction is a blockage that prevents foods and fluids from passing through the intestines. The blockage can be either partial or complete, and can cause problems with digestion as well as compromise the flow of blood to the intestines. When blood cannot reach the intestines, the tissues weaken and absorb toxic gastrointestinal contents. In severe cases, this can result in tissue death and a life-threatening inflammatory condition known as Septic Peritonitis.
Should the object not pass through the system naturally, the only other solution is to surgically remove it.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DOG HAS EATEN A ‘FOREIGN BODY’?
There is a long list of possible symptoms that dogs can exhibit. When dogs have ingested a foreign body, they generally do not feel well and can show signs of depression. One of the first signs will be sporadic vomiting. Some other symptoms to look out for are:
– Painful abdomen and tenderness when their abdomen is touched
– Loss of appetite
– Straining when trying to pass stools
– Changes in behaviour such as biting or growling when being picked up
HOW IS THIS TREATED BY A VET?
A Vet will often suggest starting with a round of X-rays. Metal, bones and rock will show up on an x-ray but cloths or plastic items may not be visible. The Vet may suggest a series of views or specialised x-rays, using contrast materials to try and visualise the object. Ultrasound can also be used to assist in finding obstructions in the gut area.
If a blockage is diagnosed, surgery is usually recommended. More serious issues may arise if the foreign object has caused damage in the intestinal tract due to the “cutting off” of blood flow to areas in the gut. If this has happened for even for a short period of time, the affected part of the intestine can die off. This causes the dog a great deal of pain, and needs to be treated very urgently. Should this happen, it can result in an infection of the abdominal space (Peritonitis) and infection of the bloodstream (Sepsis). At this stage, the dog is in a critical condition and emergency treatment is essential.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR DOG SAFE
Dogs are curious by nature and all of them should be considered as such. They will swallow inappropriate things. Therefore, try and keep them from chewing or picking up items that can cause harm. Tempting (hazardous) items should be locked away or placed out of reach.
Trash cans and closets should be fortified so that curious busybodies can be kept out. Supervise your dog or dogs during walks or when exposing them to new environments.
Your vet clinic staff can assist you with toys and chews that are safe for your dog.