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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Foreign object swallowed

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition

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Condition Overview

Foreign objects in the esophagus are common. Bones and bone splinters are seen most often. Other objects that can obstruct a dog's esophagus include string, fishhooks, needles, wood splinters, and small toys.

Symptoms

Suspect a foreign body in the esophagus when a dog suddenly begins to gag, retch, drool, and regurgitate.

A dog with a perforated esophagus exhibits fever, cough, rapid breathing, difficulty swallowing, and a rigid stance.

Causes

Causes vary drastically, but they always stem from the dog consuming an object.

Diagnosis

A history of regurgitation and difficulty swallowing for several days or longer suggests a partial obstruction.

The diagnosis can usually be made by taking X-rays of the neck and chest. Ingesting a contrast material such as Gastrografin, followed by an X-ray of the esophagus, may be required.

Treatment

1. If you see your pet swallow something that doesn't have sharp edges, the best thing to do is get him to vomit the object back up. The stomach empties within about 2 hours, after that, if the object is small, it will have passed into the intestines, and vomiting will not help. Feed your pet a small meal, then use 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. A needle-less syringe, eyedropper, or turkey baster works well as an applicator to squirt the liquid to the back of his mouth. Hydrogen peroxide bubbles and tastes nasty. It makes most dogs and cats throw up after the first or second application. It also works better with some food in the stomach, so feeding your pet first will increase the chance of success. Give 1 - 2 teaspoons of peroxide for every 10 lbs of weight. Repeat 2 - 3 times if necessary, waiting 5 minutes between doses. If he still doesn't vomit, take him to the vet immediately.

2. Pins, tacks, shards or plastic toys, screws, needles, or anything else that is sharp could hurt your pet coming back up just as much as on the way down. DO NOT induce vomiting if your pet has swallowed an object like this. The safest course of action is to take him to your vet immediately.

3. Pea-gravel and small rocks generally move out of the digestive system fairly well, but larger rocks are so heavy that they may not leave the stomach at all. If they do move, the transit time for heavy objects is much slower - rather than 2 hours in the stomach, rocks may take a day or longer to move into the intestines and another couple of days to exit the body. Feed your pet a bulky meal to help cushion the object and encourage movement, then call your vet. Pets tend to develop chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain in these cases and need medical attention right away.

4. If your pet is unable to vomit up the object, you will need to monitor his bowel movements to be sure that it has safely passed. Usually, foreign objects end up in the bowel movement within 24 - 72 hours. It takes longer for very heavy or large objects. You must be very vigilant about examining the feces. Use disposable gloves and use a popsicle stick or disposable plastic knife to slice up the deposit to look for the object. Get medical help immediately if your pet develops vomiting or diarrhea, if he hunches up and tucks his belly in pain, or if it has been longer than 72 hours and the object has not passed.
Many foreign objects can be removed by gastroscopy. The dog is given a general anesthetic, after which an endoscope is passed through the mouth and into the esophagus. The object is located visually and removed with a grasping instrument. If the object cannot be withdrawn, it can often be pushed down into the stomach and removed surgically from the abdomen. Foreign bodies that cannot be dislodges using the endoscope require open esophageal surgery. The same is true for esophageal perforations.

Prevention

Keep items that your dog may be interesting in unsafely chewing out of reach.

Support

Please contact your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns regarding this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +

Sources

Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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