Dangers lurk outdoors, on your floors
The winter months at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic have brought us many pets that have been eating things they should not be eating. A foreign body is the term for an object that is swallowed by your pet resulting in and requiring some sort of medical or surgical intervention by a veterinarian. Over the years I have removed many things from animals’ stomachs or intestines.
Here is a list of things that I have removed that you should be aware of and keep your pets away from in your home: pine cones, corn cobs, yarn/thread, dental floss, socks, underwear, or pantyhose, kids’ toys, small balls such as racquetballs or ping pong balls, baby pacifiers, rocks, bones and sticks.
What happens when your pet ingests a foreign object? Some objects if small enough may pass through the intestinal tract and be found in your pet’s stool. Others may be vomited back up or become lodged somewhere from the mouth to anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract leading to a variety of symptoms which include: vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, lethargy, fever, dehydration, pain, possible intestinal rupture and death.
If the object lodges in your pet’s stomach, it will only cause a partial obstruction. The object may just cause stomach irritation and occasional vomiting. Your pet will still be able to eat and drink and will act normally in every other way. The only way to diagnose an object in the stomach is by palpation, abdominal x-rays, and an abdominal ultrasound. It is possible your pet may be able to vomit up the object or have it removed with an endoscope. The majority of cases end up needing open abdominal surgery to remove the object.
If the object passes into the intestinal tract, then this can lead to a complete obstruction and compromise of the blood supply to the intestinal walls. Compromised intestines can lead to a rupture in the intestine. If this happens, your pet will be very ill and will not be able to keep down any food or water. They may spike a fever and become very dehydrated. The longer you wait, the worse your pet will become. It is important to get your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
If a string is swallowed by your pet, then it can cause a bunching up of the intestinal loops and possible laceration through the intestinal walls from the tightening of the string. Once the intestinal walls are compromised in any way, bacteria filled fluid can leak into the abdomen causing life-threatening sepsis.
Your pet may need bloodwork, intravenous fluids, diagnostics, and possible surgery based on the results of the diagnostic testing. In some cases your pet may just have eaten something that has passed through the intestinal tract but has left your pet with intestinal irritation, vomiting and diarrhea, and a secondary bowel infection. Your pet may still need diagnostics, hospital care, intravenous fluids, and medications even though they do not need surgery.
If you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t have eaten, call your veterinarian immediately. Preventative medicine is key! Avoid feeding any leftovers from the table, especially bones. If you are a crafter, do not allow your pets to have access to your crafting room.
Keep watch over your pets at all times, especially when they are outside. Keep them on a leash, more so in the springtime when they may be more apt to find things that have emerged from underneath the melting snow. Throw away any chewed up toys, and do not leave your children’s toys lying around. Puppies are more likely to chew up items, especially when they are teething.
Crate train your puppy so when you cannot watch them closely, they can be safely contained and stay out of trouble. Keep emergency vet numbers on hand if you know your pet has swallowed a foreign body!
Dr. Rebekah Frost is a veterinarian who writes monthly for the OBSERVER. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org