Foreign Body Obstructions: When Your Pet Eats Something They Shouldn’t

Sometimes our pets eat things they shouldn’t. When they eat appropriately-sized pet food, it is first digested in the stomach and then moves throughout the intestines. A foreign body obstruction occurs when an animal eats an object that becomes lodged in part of its gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, the digestive tract is unable to propel the food and it gets stuck, preventing their body to function normally.

The most common clinical signs of a foreign body obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy or restlessness
  • Straining or difficulty defecating
  • Decreased eating and drinking

A foreign body in the stomach or intestines is considered a true medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated in a timely manner.

It is important that if you witness your pet ingest a foreign object and/or they show the symptoms mentioned above, you get them seen by a veterinarian immediately. Left untreated, blood can be cut-off from vital organs or a perforation can occur.

A physical exam, radiographs (x-rays), and blood work are usually necessary in order for your veterinarian to make a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet can determine an appropriate treatment and plan of action. Sometimes the foreign body can be passed on its own, but surgery may be required to remove the object(s).

Some factors your vet considers when creating a treatment plan may include:

  • size, location, and characteristics of object
  • duration of obstruction
  • secondary illnesses presenting
  • overall health of the pet
  • availability of your clinic and emergency referral options

Time can be critical in foreign body cases, as your pet’s condition can rapidly decline within 12 hours of ingestion. It’s especially important pet owners take their veterinarian’s recommendations seriously, as it could mean their pet’s life.

Prevent a foreign body emergency by discouraging bad chewing behaviors, providing your pet with enough appropriately-sized toys, and pet-proofing your house and yard. Keep trash bins and laundry baskets hidden or locked, and don’t make a habit of leaving certain objects on the floor, table, or counters.

Some of the most commonly ingested objects include:

  • Socks, Underwear, + Panty Hose
  • Rocks
  • Balls + Chew Toys
  • Corn Cobs
  • Bones
  • Hair Ties, Ribbons + String
  • Sticks
  • Tampons, Pads, + Diapers
  • Containers, Wrappers, + Plastic Packaging
  • Fabrics