Foreign Bodies

What not to eat…

WARNING: this post contains an image taken during surgery!

You won’t believe what some pets will eat!

Snoopy is usually a bright, happy and inquisitive 3 year old beagle. It wasn’t too long ago that he ended up at VetHQ after helping himself to some chocolate. With his owners now ensuring he can’t get his paws on anymore chocolate, when bored at home on a Saturday night, Snoopy settled for his Dad’s loafer shoe. Luckily he quickly vomited the shoe back up but over the next 12 hours he lost his appetite (which is very unusual for any beagle, let alone Snoopy!), was still vomiting and very flat.

He presented to VetHQ looking very depressed which was a far cry from the hyperactive excited little man who had visited us recently for his vaccinations. On physical examination his gums were very dry from dehydration and he had a very sore tummy.

We admitted him to hospital and took blood to assess the degree of dehydration, put him on intravenous fluids to rehydrate him and gave him an anti-nausea injection. Given his history and presentation, we were highly suspicious that he had a foreign body in his tummy making him so sick. We confirmed our suspicions by taking an xray of his tummy which revealed an object causing an obstruction and resulting in a lot of gas building up in his small intestines.

While some foreign bodies will pass, many become lodged along the gastrointestinal tract and cause discomfort, inappetence, vomiting or diarrhoea. Foreign bodies stuck in the stomach may be retrieved by placing an endoscopic camera into the mouth and pulled out using instruments. In Snoopy’s case the foreign body was past his stomach and lodged in his intestines. We had to anaesthetise him and perform a surgery where we opened up his abdomen so we could explore his intestinal tract all the way from the stomach to the colon. As soon as we got to his small intestine, there was an obvious area that had a foreign body inside. We needed to make an incision into his intestines and we managed to remove a sock!

Snoopy was kept in hospital overnight on fluids and pain relief. By the next day he was back to his bright, happy and hungry self. He went home with pain relief to keep him comfortable and on a bland, easily digestible diet (Note: socks have been proven to be extremely hard to digest!). Snoopy returned 10 days later to have his stitches removed and has made a full recovery!

In the last few months we have seen a dog with a leash and collar in its stomach, a dog with hair styling products in its intestines, Snoopy’s sock and a kitten with a gut filled with hair elastics. We also had 2 pets with heavy metal toxicities – a dog who ate a piece of metal left behind by builders and a kitten who ate lead paint. Both were very sick and required blood transfusions. Please be vigilant with your dogs and cats – foreign body obstructions can end in a life threatening situation!

If you pet has swallowed any foreign object that you are aware of or is suffering from lethargy, inappetence, diarrhoea or vomiting please contact us at VetHQ. Please keep objects like string, hair elastics, tea-towels and face towels, fish hooks, underwear, socks, golf balls, destructible toys and corn-cobs out of reach of your pets.

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