My dog swallowed a foreign object, what should I do?

dog swallowed foreign objectMost dogs (especially puppies) chew things and occasionally they will swallow things they shouldn’t.  Some objects may be small enough to pass through their system without causing any problems but others may get stuck and your dog may become seriously ill quite quickly. 

What to watch out for if your dog swallows something they shouldn't

Signs your dog may have eaten a foreign body include:

  • Loss of appetite or reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Absence of faeces or sometimes diarrhoea
  • Signs of abdominal discomfort – reluctance to move, crying out 

What sort of things get stuck?

All sorts!

Fruit stones, corn on the cob, bones, stones, small toys, babies dummies, rubber ducks, coins, fridge magnets, you name it!  These types of objects can cause a physical obstruction due to their size and shape, normally at the outflow of the stomach or in the small intestine. If the foreign object is chewed up, the sharp edges of plastic or bone can pierce the intestine, causing peritonitis (an infection in the abdomen). 

Socks, pants, needles and thread and other materials, can cause a physical obstruction if they ball up, or can unravel and cause a linear foreign body that can lead to the small intestine bunching up and being cut through like cheese wire.

What should I do?

If you can see thread, string, or another form of cord hanging from your dog’s mouth or bottom, do not pull it or cut it. Doing so may cause injury and make it more difficult for us to treat your dog.  

If the swallowed object is a liquid or poison, see our poisons article for further information. 

For all cases phone your local vet for specific advice. Left untreated a foreign body can be fatal for your dog.

Veterinary Care – what to expect

Your vet will perform a full physical examination and ask you questions to try and get as much information about your dog as possible. They will ask you if you know what your dog has swallowed and when he swallowed it as well as questions about your dog’s general health.  Your dog may need blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound and may need a general anaesthetic to have the foreign object removed.   The health of your dog’s intestine will be assessed and in some cases it is necessary to remove a portion of the damaged intestine.

Prevention

Although it’s almost impossible to stop dogs from putting things in their mouth, try to keep an eye on what they’re chewing.  Avoid keeping too many dog toys lying around, and try and keep kids toys as well as clothing and underwear out of reach.  Ensure fruit stones, corn on the cobs and any cooked bones are disposed of safely and securely so your dog cannot access them.

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more about what to do in an out of hours emergency.

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