Home Conditions Ingesting Foreign Objects: Signs, Symptoms, and What To Do

Ingesting Foreign Objects: Signs, Symptoms, and What To Do

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As the owner of four dogs, I’ve had my share of trips to the vet for one reason or another, but one of the scariest visits is the one where a dog has eaten something he or she shouldn’t have and needs medical attention. Even if you know what the dog has ingested, treatment can be as severe as surgery, which carries risks itself.

One of my dogs, a black lab named Jake, ate part of a blanket one time. What I thought was a good deed (putting a nice, comfy blanket in his crate), turned into a 5-day stay at the vet, the possibility of surgery to remove the mass from his stomach, and a $1000+ ¬†bill. Luckily, Jake eventually vomited up all the blanket pieces and didn’t need to have surgery, but it was touch and go for a few days while the vet administered meds to make him vomit, took X-rays, and prepared us for the worst. It probably goes without saying, but Jake no longer gets a blanket in his crate.

Signs and symptoms

While in the case of Jake, I could visibly see that he ate the blanket and I knew immediately it was an emergency, sometimes you may have no clue your pet’s gotten into something until he begins displaying signs. If you see any of the following signs in your pet, it could mean he or she has ingested something toxic or foreign, and a trip to the vet is necessary.

  • Vomiting
  • Painful or swollen abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Altered behavior
  • Diarrhea/Constipation

What to do

If you know your dog has eaten something he or she shouldn’t, regardless of what it is, you should take your pet to your veterinarian immediately. Anything that isn’t their normal food or treats is a potential threat. If your regular vet isn’t open, call an emergency animal hospital and explain the circumstances. They will be able to tell you how to proceed. Never wait to see if the foreign object will pass on its own. By the time you realize it won’t, it could be too late to save your pet’s life.

If your pet is acting strange or displaying any of the symptoms above for more than a day, it’s best to take your pet in and have him or her checked out. It could just be a stomach bug, but it’s better to be safe than sorry where accidental ingestion is involved.

Treatment for accidental ingestion

The treatment for accidental ingestion obviously depends on the object or substance swallowed and where it’s located in the dog’s body. The first thing the vet will do is take X-rays to determine where the object is. If it’s still in the stomach, the vet may simply use an endoscope down the dog’s throat and retrieve it. For objects that have already passed into the intestines, surgery may be the only option. If your dog has ingested a toxic substance, the vet may induce vomiting to rid the body of as much of the substance as possible.

If you own a dog who’s prone to ingesting things he or she shouldn’t, the easiest way to avoid issues is to not let your pooch have access to tempting objects. I know it’s easier said than done, but as with our case, simply not putting another blanket in Jake’s crate seemed to eliminate the problem — he’s never offered to eat anything foreign again. My best advice is to “dog-proof” your house as much as you can and keep an eye on Fido. Your dog relies on you for safety.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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