Ingestion of Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Pet Health

HIF Australia

We all know that dogs love to chew on items such as bones, socks, clothing or small toys. Thankfully, it's usually harmless fun; but according to Dr Melissa Meehan, "You'd be surprised at how many dogs end up in the emergency room with something that can't be digested, stuck in their intestine". In this short clip, Dr. Melissa Meehan talks to Veterinarian expert, Dr Chris Preston to discuss the most common foreign objects digested and the possible consequences for our pets.

Video Transcription

Dr Melissa Meehan: Dogs love to chew things, and puppies can’t get enough of it. Usually it’s just harmless fun, but you’d be surprised how many dogs end up in the emergency room with something that can’t be digested, stuck in their intestines. Undies, socks, rocks – they all have to be surgically removed. What are the most common foreign bodies that you’re retrieving from dogs?

Dr Chris Preston: They would include material, clothing, socks, underpants, string and rubber items, small toys or kitchen products. Caps from detergent bottles, parts of a tennis ball – that’s pretty common. Some vegetative matter, such as pips from fruit when there’s a lot of fruit lying around as some dogs like fruit. 

Bones would be a very common one, and there’s a lot of discussion out there as to whether they should be cooked or raw and whether they should be a hug big cow’s thigh – polishing their teeth chewing and then take it away, or whether they should be allowed to lie on the lawn all afternoon and crack it into bits and swallow them.

So as a surgeon I’d just like to point out that opening a dogs stomach up to retrieve something like this is quick and easy. You’re coming in through the abdomen and making an incision in the stomach. But the ones I get called in for as a specialist are the bones that get stuck in the oesophagus before it makes it into the stomach. That’s much more involved. And we’re doing a thoracotomy, so the postoperative care is a much bigger deal. 

Dr Melissa Meehan: And you can get scarring of the oesophagus can’t you?

Dr Chris Preston: You can. So the stomach and the intestines are quite forgiving to operate on, and you can remove sections of the intestine if they’re damaged. Whereas the oesophagus we can’t remove it, the healing is compromised, the access is compromised, and if it stretches and forms a narrow section that dog may have a permanent problem with swallowing.

Dr Melissa Meehan: So quite dangerous?

Dr Chris Preston: Yes

Dr Melissa Meehan: And Chris, what’s going on here? This one just walked in the door literally now didn’t it?

Dr Chris Preston: Yeah so this Doberman has just been referred in for a known ingestion of a rubber ball that we are currently deciding on what options we’ve got that we can present to the owner and what option might be the most direct. So simplistically the approach to this would be to make the dog vomit, and if that doesn’t work, then under anaesthesia we pass a fibre optic so that we can visualise the foreign body, and try and pass a grasping device down to retrieve it. If that is unsuccessful, then we would go to surgery. So we would come in through the abdominal wall and make an incision in the stomach to remove it.

Dr Melissa Meehan: So it’s going to be a series of tests and attempts, and probably end up being an expensive surgery?

Dr Chris Preston: Yes 

Dr Melissa Meehan: Not all insurance companies cover intestinal foreign body surgery in their basic package. Fortunately, HIF does, but they only cover it once in a twelve-month period.  So if your dog is prone to eating things that they shouldn’t, then it’s best to keep all those things up, safely out of the way. 

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