Like toddlers, pets have a tendency to chew anything they can get into their mouths. This becomes a serious and potentially life-threatening problem if the objects are swallowed. An animal ingesting a long string or ribbon can develop a linear foreign body which is even more dangerous.
Where Do “Foreign Bodies” Get Stuck?
The digestive tract is essentially a long tube, passing food from the mouth, down the esophagus, into the stomach, through the lengthy small intestine, then forming stool in the colon and out the rectum.
When objects are too large to pass, they usually obstruct at the stomach outflow or within the small intestine itself. With linear foreign bodies, the continual movement of the intestinal tract can literally bunch the intestines into an accordion-like mass.
If the foreign body has managed to move to the colon, it will probably successfully pass. But, defecating a sharp object may prove painful and may even need veterinary assistance. Never pull protruding objects from your pet’s rectum. If it is still lodged inside, you can cause serious damage to the internal tissues.
Symptoms of Foreign Body Ingestion
Animals with ingested foreign bodies generally do not feel well. They often stop eating and/or act depressed. Initially, some cases with intestinal foreign bodies may have diarrhea.
Most patients with digestive foreign bodies exhibit vomiting. If the object has not fully clogged the digestive tract, the vomiting may be intermittent. But with a complete blockage, the dog or cat will be unable to keep anything down, including liquids. The longer the blockage lasts, the more critical the animal’s condition becomes.
Keeping Your Pet Safe
Dogs and cats maintain no more than a toddler’s level of sense for their entire lives. Certainly some have a stronger tendency to swallow foreign objects, but all have the potential.
Monitor your pet’s habits. Especially with puppies and kittens, keep small swallowable items picked up and out of their way. Discuss with your veterinarian appropriately sized chew toys, considering ALL the pets in your home. Never leave strings or ribbons within reach of your pets – especially cats.
If you suspect that your pet has swallowed a foreign body, call your veterinarian immediately. If your pet exhibits signs suspicious of foreign body ingestion, your veterinarian will guide you in the best diagnostic approach at the time.
The sooner your pet receives medical attention, the better his or her chances of full recovery with fewer complications.
According to research from VPI Pet Insurance, surgery to remove foreign objects from the stomach of a pet cost an average of $1,472; while surgical removal from the intestines was $1,910 on average.
While preventative measures are essential for pet safety, pets – and their appetites – are often unpredictable. Establishing an emergency savings fund or having an emergency credit card for unexpected pet expenses can help alleviate financial worries during an emergency. This will allow you to focus on the critical medical decisions your pet will need to you make for them.