If you share your life with a dog, you already know most dogs will put just about anything in their mouths. Usually, dogs are simply curious and want to chew, but often times they intentionally or accidentally swallow something that should not be consumed.


Just look at Woof Report’s past tip detailing the most unusual items ingested by pets in 2010 from VPI Pet Insurance, and you’ll be amazed. While dogs commonly ingest items such as socks, sticks and rocks, the list includes a jellyfish, glue, a bikini, a baseball, a glass Christmas ornament, a bed sheet, a box of pencils, 16 steel wool pads and a barbecue brush.


Upon reading this, you can’t help but be concerned for the welfare of your own dog: how do you identify and treat foreign body ingestion, and how can you prevent it?


To begin with, foreign body ingestion is just as it sounds, any foreign body, or non-edible item, which is swallowed by your dog. While smaller items may simply pass through your dog’s system, larger items can become lodged in the stomach and intestines and result in pain, vomiting, or internal injuries.


Thanks to an informative article on foreign body ingestion from Dr. Ingrid Pyka from the VPI Pet Insurance website, “Understanding The Dangers From A Veterinarian’s Perspective,” below are the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment in brief, as well as preventative measures to keep your dog safe. Visit the link below to read the full article and find a second useful resource on the topic.


Symptoms. A dog with an ingested foreign body does not feel well in general and often stops eating and/or acts depressed. Vomiting is a common symptom (although it can be seen in the case of many other illnesses too). If there is a complete digestive system blockage, the dog will be unable to keep anything down, including liquids. Initially, some dogs with an intestinal foreign body blockage may have diarrhea, but it’s not common if the intestines are blocked.

If you suspect your dog may have ingested something that may not pass through his or her intestinal tract, contact your veterinarian immediately to improve the chances of successful treatment with fewer complications.


Diagnosis. The first step in diagnosis is a veterinarian examination. In some cases, feeling the abdomen may be enough to diagnose an obstruction and also blood work may be done to establish if there are liver, kidney, pancreas, or electrolyte abnormalities. If your veterinarian suspects an intestinal foreign body, he or she will probably recommend x-rays, which will show object such as metal, rock, or bone, but may not show a cloth or plastic object. Some patients may require repeat x-rays, a contrast study, or an ultrasound, and in more difficult cases, exploratory surgery may be recommended.


Treatment. In the best cases, the item in still in the dog’s stomach, in which case vomiting may be induced, or the item can be removed from the stomach with an endoscope, which is a long fiber optic tube used to retrieve the item through the mouth. If the item lodges in the intestine, abdominal surgery is necessary, which requires hospitalization.


Prevention. Protect your dog from ingesting dangerous foreign bodies by preventing access to items (dog toys included), that could be swallowed, and by providing your dog with appropriately sized toys. Check your dog’s toys regularly for loose pieces (and squeakers!) that could be swallowed. And as mentioned, contact your vet immediately if you suspect your dog may have ingested a harmful object.


The Scoop:

Read the full article about foreign body ingestion from Dr. Ingrid Pyka from the VPI Pet Insurance website, “Understanding The Dangers From A Veterinarian’s Perspective.”


Learn more about foreign body ingestion diagnosis, treatment and potential complications from the Michigan Veterinary Specialists.


Read Woof Report’s past tip, “2010’s Most Unusual Objects Ingested by Pets.”


Thank you to Stephanie Wallace Photography on flickr for the photo of Moose.