Foreign bodies – what do we do?

We all love our house to be clean, but sometimes this can present a hazard to our pets as well as ourselves! Plastic bottles of cleaning products can look like fun chew toys to dogs, however they can have residual product in them that can be very harmful. Bleaches can burn mouths and skin and can be very damaging if they get into eyes. Emergency treatment involves washing products off skin and out of mouth and seeking urgent veterinary attention.

By Spring your dog will have probably managed to get that squeaker out of their new Christmas toy. Some dogs can be daft enough to swallow those squeakers or any other small items! We refer to these as foreign bodies. You may not notice these things being eaten or missing so often these pets will present with lethargy and persistent vomiting (because the foreign object is blocking the way through the stomach or the guts). We usually advise x-rays in these cases because often we can see clues for a blockage. If the blockage does not look like it will pass we usually have to perform surgery to remove the offending articles. It is most usual for dogs to eat abnormal non-food items, however the author’s first “foreign body surgery” was to remove a small conker from a cat’s intestine!

If your animal is brought to a veterinary surgery within 3 hours (as soon as possible) of swallowing something abnormal we will usually induce vomiting to try and get as much of it out as possible. (There are some exceptions to this rule). The drug that is used to make dogs vomit can also cause them to feel drowsy afterwards. The author has even seen dogs fall asleep in between vomiting! If we are satisfied most of the foreign material has come out and it has been very recently ingested we will usually discharge your animal with some activated charcoal. Activated charcoal mops up any toxin that might be left to prevent it from being absorbed. If we are concerned the toxin has been absorbed we usually advise hospitalising your pet for a minimum of 24 hours on fluid therapy to help “flush out” the toxin. There are rarely any anti-toxins so treatment is usually symptomatic and supportive. All vets have access to a Veterinary Poisons Service where there is a huge database of all potential toxins. In cases of unusual intoxication we can ring this service for advice.