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We get worried calls from pet parents whose dog swallowed a foreign object. Dogs are notorious for their appetite for things we find unappealing and oftentimes gross. But like most scavengers, they will eat anything that seems like food or at least something to chew on. This is why foreign body obstructions are a common veterinary emergency we see at Westarbor Animal Hospital.

It’s important for you to understand the signs of this emergency and what to do if your dog swallowed a foreign object.

The Most Commonly Swallowed Objects

If you are a dog owner, you probably know some of the items dogs find fascinating, like underwear, socks, and discarded bones. Other items that dogs swallow may come as a surprise to you. Among the more frequently reported foreign items include:

  • Rocks
  • Balls
  • Toys
  • Coins
  • Pantyhose and socks
  • Underwear
  • Hair ties and rubberbands
  • Sticks
  • Bones
  • Erasers
  • Paperclips
  • String and holiday ribbon
  • Fishing lines/tackle

The list goes on as to the odd assortment of things dogs have been known to swallow. It’s always a safe bet that if it can fit in a dog’s mouth, store it away from their reach.

Signs Your Pet Has Ingested an Object

You may not see that your pet eats something they shouldn’t, like an inedible item. In this case, know the signs of a gastrointestinal obstruction or foreign body ingestion.

  • Choking or gagging
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Licking the lips
  • Vomiting or attempting to
  • Refusal to eat/drink water
  • Restlessness
  • Bloating
  • Distended abdomen
  • Straining to defecate

An obstruction in the abdomen occurs when the object is too large to pass. Take the steps to address these symptoms right away with us or the nearest emergency hospital.

If Your Dog Swallowed a Foreign Object

If you witness your dog ingesting something and aren’t able to get it out of their mouth before they swallow, here are steps you should take.

Call your veterinarian. Let them know what your dog ingested and the time of ingestion. This will give you the assurance of how you can safely wait for the item to pass, and whether your dog may need treatment immediately. At the clinic, we will take a series of x-rays to determine where the object is in the body. At times, ultrasound may give us a better view of the object and if it is likely to cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.

If the swallowed object is small enough, isn’t sharp, and still in the stomach, we can induce vomiting. Certain objects can be extracted through the esophagus with the use of an endoscope. It can also give a better idea of the location of the item and whether or not it is causing an obstruction, or likely to. If the Doctor determines that use of an endoscope is the best medical option, your pet would be referred to an Emergency or Specialty hospital.

An item that can’t come up through the GI tract will need to be removed surgically. Do not attempt to induce vomiting at home as this can create additional problems.

Taking Measures to Prevent This Emergency

Dogs are naturally curious and will get into things they shouldn’t – that is, if they can. Keep track of things your dog has an affinity for, such as items of clothing or rocks. Store these objects, as much as you are able, in areas they cannot access. Provide plenty of things that are fine for them to chew on, like a Kong toy with peanut butter filling, or other dental chew such as those on this VOHC approved list.

If your dog swallowed a foreign object, call us right away. If you have any questions about foreign body dangers, we are here to answer them.

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