Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s Blog
Gilda, a 4 year old female mastiff, was brought to the emergency clinic for vomiting, depression and lack of appetite.
After the veterinarian did a thorough physical exam, he recommended taking X-rays of the abdomen (belly).
The X-rays confirmed the suspicion: a blockage of the intestine by a foreign body, likely cloth. Pets can eat all sorts of crazy things, such as toys, sticks, rocks etc. Puppies (and kittens) are the main culprits because they are inexperienced and silly. And because they explore their environment with their mouth. However, Gilda was not a young pup, so her foreign body was a little unusual. What compelled her to swallow it?
Surgery was performed and sure enough, I pulled a large, twisted up piece of fabric out of her intestine! It was about the size of a hand towel. A biopsy of the intestine was taken before closing the belly.
Gilda recovered smoothly in ICU. She later went home, feeling much better.
After a week, the biopsy results came in and confirmed my suspicion of irritable bowel disease (IBD). This condition is somewhat similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in humans. It is often the reason why adult dogs (and cats) swallow a foreign body. They feel weird, and they are compelled to eat things they shouldn’t. This is called “pica” (pronounced pie-ka). Classic signs of IBD may include vomiting and diarrhea.
Long-term, Gilda’s owners’ main focus will be to “puppy-proof” the house and the yard at all times, and to only feed a prescription diet to keep the IBD under control. Sometimes, medications are required to treat IBD.
Fortunately, Gilda’s future looks good.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified
Sam is a 12-year-old Jack Russell, who had been vomiting and was lethargic for a few days. X-rays and an ultrasound revealed that he had swallowed a foreign body. There was a suspicion that he chewed pieces of carpet.
Carpet is really made of a very long string, so the risk was that Sam had eaten what is called a “linear” foreign body. Linear foreign bodies can be deadly if they cut into the intestine.
Sam was taken to surgery at Berks Animal Emergency & Referral Center. Two foreign bodies could be felt: one in the stomach and one in the small intestine. You can watch the removal of the string from the stomach and the intestine below. The video does contain graphic footage of a surgical procedure, so you may want to skip it if you’re sensitive to that type of footage!
Although we expect puppies (and kittens) to eat things they shouldn’t, older pets should know better. Most of the time, when an adult swallows a foreign body I suspect there is an underlying medical condition. I always take biopsies of the stomach and the intestine during surgery to check. Sure enough, Sam’s biopsies revealed a common condition called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). This disease can and should be treated to make him feel better and to hopefully prevent him from swallowing another foreign body.
Happily, Sam recovered nicely after surgery! Make sure to doggy proof your house to reduce the risk your pet will eat something dangerous. And if your dog or cat is vomiting, don’t wait! Take him to the vet to get it checked out.
A 10 year-old Jack Russell, Max, wasn’t feeling well.
He’d eaten a red rubber toy, and while he vomited a small piece of it up, X-rays and continued vomiting suggested there was more foreign material in the stomach and the small intestine.
Sure enough, we found 2 more foreign bodies in the belly. One piece was in the stomach, which we opened up. The other one was literally stuck at the end of small intestine, right before the appendix.
But that wasn’t it. Because of his age, I suspected that Max had an underlying condition that compelled him to eat things he shouldn’t. We expect puppies to get into things they shouldn’t, which is why puppy-proofing a house is so important! On the other hand, seniors like Max and dogs who are past puppy-hood should know better.
We took biopsies of the stomach and the intestine at Berks Animal Emergency & Referral Center. Sure enough, a week later the biopsies revealed Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), a condition similar to IBS in people.
Toys are not always as safe as manufacturers claim! Young dogs eat stuff because they are young and… not always so smart (good thing they’re cute).
However, older pets should know better. They often eat foreign bodies because of IBD, which should be treated.