Intestinal Foreign Body Blockage

Alice at her 2 week re-check.

A “foreign body” is any material other than food which enters into the stomach and intestines.  Some common foreign bodies are toys, clothing (socks, underwear, t-shirts), towels and rags, string, plastics, and rubber.  Dogs and cats can sometimes be too interested in these items and shred and chew them.  Unfortunately, some animals take it too far and end up swallowing them whole or in pieces.  If they are lucky, they will vomit these items, or pass them in their stool, but sometimes these objects get stuck.

Dogs and cats who have a blockage typically present with vomiting, decreased or absent appetite, and abdominal pain.  Based on the history and physical exam, your vet will decide if radiographs are needed.  The difficult part about radiographs is that most foreign body material does not show up on film.  Your vet will be looking for abnormal gas patterns and dilations of the intestinal tract.  Sometimes repeat films, several hours apart, are needed to confirm the need for exploratory surgery.  The red markers show the areas on the radiographs that were used to determine the need for surgery in these patients.

When a blockage is suspected, your pet will need exploratory surgery.  This is where your veterinarian will open their abdomen and examine the intestinal tract while they are under anesthesia.  Sometimes the object can be removed through a small incision into the stomach or intestine.  Other times, if the blockage has caused the intestine to die, a portion of intestine will need to be removed.

Most animals recover well from surgery, but complications can arise.  The biggest concern is failure of the stitches in the intestines due to infection or dead tissue caused from the foreign body.  It is common for pets to continue to eat objects as they do not understand the correlation, so managing this desire will be long term.

There are other causes of vomiting in our pets, so be sure to give LVC a call if your pet is feeling unwell so we can determine the next steps that are needed!

Bunched up intestines due to ingestion of a long rope toy.

The rope toy after removal.

Koga the day after surgery.


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