Foreign Body Removal in Cats

Foreign Body Removal in Cats - Conditions Treated, Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Cost, Considerations, Prevention
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What is Foreign Body Removal?

When an object becomes stuck inside a cat's body (whether due to a penetrating injury or simply being ingested), it may become necessary to perform surgery to remove it. This procedure is commonly referred to as 'foreign body removal' and can take several forms depending on the object's size and location within the cat's body. It also happens to be one of the most common procedures performed on many animals. Surgical removal of a foreign body is typically used as a primary method of treatment, used to prevent further injury to the affected cat.

Foreign Body Removal Procedure in Cats

In advance of the surgery, the vet will precisely locate the object within the cat's body. This will typically be done either by touch or by using an imaging scan such as ultrasound, which will allow them to know about any other damage that may have occurred that could require repair. Before starting, the vet will place the cat under a general anesthetic, giving them control over the animal's posture and orientation. At this point, there are two methods that can be used: endoscopic removal and surgical removal. With an endoscopy, the vet will thread a tube with an attached camera and instrument down the cat's esophagus, grabbing the object directly and pulling it out of the mouth. However, if the object is too tightly wedged or too sharp to pull back up the throat, then the vet will opt for direct surgical removal. In order to do this, they will shave and disinfect a patch of skin on the cat's belly before making a lengthwise incision. Next, they will clamp the wound open before cutting into the stomach or intestine itself. At this point, they can grasp and remove the object and visually inspect the digestive tract for additional damage. To close the wound, the surgeon simply sutures the stomach and skin shut and leaves the cat to heal. In some cases (such as when there is damage to the esophagus), a feeding tube may be left running from the stomach and out of the cat's side. For objects embedded in the cat's skin, the surgeon will generally only need to remove them with tweezers and clean and close the wound.

Efficacy of Foreign Body Removal in Cats

The effects of the procedure will be quickly apparent, allowing the cat to either digest food or move normally again once it has healed. Furthermore, unless the cat manages to swallow another object, there will be no repetition of the symptoms that have been displayed. That said, there is an alternative method that some owners may choose to try first. Drugs that induce vomiting or diarrhea (such as a powerful laxative) are sometimes used to clear foreign objects out of a cat's gut. That said, if the object is too sharp or too big, then further damage to the digestive system may occur as it travels through the body, making surgery the best option.

Foreign Body Removal Recovery in Cats

Recovery times will vary from animal to animal, though most endoscopy patients will be back to normal within a few days, due to the absence of any surgical incision. Animals that have undergone stomach surgery, however, will need three to four weeks in which to recover. During this time period, their owners will have to provide extensive aftercare, administering drugs such as painkillers to minimize their discomfort and a course of antibiotics in order to prevent an infection. Their levels of activity will also have to be reduced in order to prevent a re-opening of the wound and to conserve their energy. In addition, the cat should be fed a diet of much blander food than normal, in order to avoid putting a strain on their stomach. If a feeding tube has been inserted, then they will require a liquid diet until it is removed after a few weeks.

Cost of Foreign Body Removal in Cats

The price of a foreign body removal will differ from cat to cat, with older animals generally commanding a higher premium. For an endoscopic procedure, owners can expect to pay between $400 and $1,000, depending on the type of object involved and its position within the animal's body. A surgery to remove an object from the gastrointestinal system will cost much more due to the special skill set needed to perform the operation, with prices varying between $800 and $2,000. Surgery to remove objects from external wounds will generally cost less, with many veterinary practices offering treatment for less than six hundred dollars.

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Cat Foreign Body Removal Considerations

It should be kept in mind that whilst the procedure is extremely effective at preventing further damage to the animal, foreign body removal can have some inherent risks. Chief amongst these potential problems is the mild chance that a surgical incision may become infected. Though uncommon if the proper steps are taken to counter hostile bacteria (such as giving the cat antibiotics), such an infection can become life-threatening if not quickly noticed and treated. Another potential problem is the chance of an endoscopic removal causing more damage to the digestive tract as the object is pulled out of the body and thereby causing more health problems. That said, if the procedure is not carried out, then the cat's condition can rapidly deteriorate as the object wreaks havoc in its digestive system.

Foreign Body Removal Prevention in Cats

The main way in which cat owners can prevent their pet from ingesting harmful foreign bodies is to maintain a clean and well-organized living area for the animal. Household waste that could potentially be swallowed by the animal should be thrown away as soon as possible, whilst possibly harmful dirt and debris should be swept up regularly. Though there is little that can be done to protect the cat whilst it is wandering outside of its own accord, owners can work to minimize the amount of clutter and garden waste that may otherwise be lying around their property. Finally, staying aware of a cat's normal behavior and taking notices of sudden changes can help identify and resolve a problem such as a swallowed object before it becomes a threat.

Foreign Body Removal Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






7 Years


5 found this helpful


5 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
A mass in my cats abdomen was felt on physical exam unrelated to reason I brought him for skin allergy. X ray confirmed a mass and ultrasound showed linear objects in his stomach. It was removed via surgery and over 1/2lbs of elastic hair ties had been removed.

Aug. 25, 2018

5 Recommendations

It is amazing what cats and other animals consume and need removing, it is important to keep hair ties and similar products out of Dax’s reach to prevent recurrence. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

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Feline Feline




8 Years


7 found this helpful


7 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Gagging, Lethargic ,
My cat just had a foxtail removed from his throat and is still gagging and sounds extremely hoarse. Is this normal? He’s very lethargic from anesthesia too. He’s 9 yrs old and is not looking too good at this point. How long does it take for the gagging to subside?

May 31, 2018

7 Recommendations

It really depends on the amount of irritation the foxtail caused to the throat and it also depends on the type of anaesthesia used as cats have very sensitive throats and some anaesthetic agents may cause some gagging as well as irritation from an intubation tube if used (probably not given simple foxtail removal). I would give it the weekend, but if Jinx is in distress you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 1, 2018

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