Doc, my pet just swallowed a…….!
Foreign bodies in dogs and cats
If animals could talk, they would probably have strange stories to tell… Especially concerning what they ingest! In general, dogs love things that have a pleasant odor, (but not necessarily pleasant to us!) for example: garbage cans and whatever they may contain, such as bones, plastic bags, outdated food, etc… They also like to tear and rip into pieces tennis balls, socks, underwear (with a preference for feminine underwear…), but also condoms, tissue paper, sanitary napkins, baby diapers… In short, many enticing objects! On the other hand, cats, with a more ‘refined palate’, will often swallow by accident objects with which they are playing: sewing thread (with the needle still attached to the other end…), a ribbon, a strand of wool, or in other words, ‘linear’ foreign bodies. They will also like to play with little balls, elastics (hair or other), ear plugs, trombones, thumbtacks, etc… Your cat or dog risks ingesting these objects rapidly, especially if a family member (or another family pet) approaches to take it away, as if to take away its prey… There goes the foreign object in the stomach! 🙁
Fortunately, many of these foreign objects go unnoticed or cause a mild gastroenteritis. Vomiting and diarrhea could be observed. The object will make its way without causing too much damage and will find itself in the stools a few days later.
However, whatever the ingested object, whether you have a cat or a dog, the consequences can be devastating and should not be taken lightly: intestinal obstructions with or without necrosis of the mucosa, lacerations and/or perforations of the stomach or the intestine, or peritonitis can cause the death of the animal.
The diagnostic is not always easy to do because many foreign objects cannot be seen on the abdominal radiography. Only objects with a radiographic density such as needles, bones, nails, thumbtacks, and certain balls will be visible radiographically (they are called radio-opaques). Plastic bags, thread, ribbons, or tissue can often be missed.
A surgical intervention called a gastrotomy or enterotomy will need to be performed to remove the foreign body in the gastrointestinal tract. If the walls are non-viable, sections of the stomach or intestines will need to be removed.
The best way to treat remains prevention! Avoid leaving objects lying around and keep you cat or dog in a safe environment!