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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.

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

ali
Cat
7 Months
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

vomiting lost appetite lethargic

my cat is 7 months old and we believe he has swallowed an piece of cooking twine from a cooked roast but the vet is unsure has been sent home twice because other then vomiting once in a while he shows no other symptoms they can feel something in his intestines but its to small to tell if it is anything other then poop after five days now of giving him gastric food through a syringe he is drinking water on his own but still very lethargic and not himself i will be taking him in tomorrow and demanding an x-ray but what else could it be

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Tito
short hair
12 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Regurgitation
Regurgitation lethar

My cat had a lot of regurgitating issues for 2 days, first day he was able to eat some but by the second day it got more intense so he stopped trying to eat and started hiding. He does this when he feels very sick. Took him to the vet on Tuesday and got x rays, doctor said he was full of gas and his esophagus seemed enlarged. Doctor gave him an antihemetic shot and called me to pick him up. At night all the symptoms got worse so I rushed to the emergency clinic where he was admitted and had an ultrasound the following day. It showed a 4 cm object inside his stomach so surgery was suggested due to the shape and location of the object. He had surgery that same evening and the object they described in the ultrasound was not found. Also he had more regurgitation during the night. We got referred to a university hospital for further examination, I took him on a Thursday, he was weaker and was admitted immediately. Had another surgery on Friday, doctor explained he had to clean some fluids inside the stomach, no foreign object was found again and some rips and ulcers were taken care of on his stomach and intestines. He stayed the following days in the ICU, several blood transfusions were needed since his red blood cells kept dropping without much explanation. I don’t understand very well how it all got this complicated but while some doctors pointed at the possibility of this to be caused by a mega esophagus, others were denying the possibility of that. I need to see how my cat will be doing in the next following days or weeks, he is still in the ICU, 5 days later.

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Nhym
Tuxedo
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

none

My dogs growing up could eat whatever and it would come out, I didn’t realize this could be an issue until recent. My cat is about two years old now; throughout his childhood he has consumed pieces of t-shirt, strings, plastic and etc. when this was going on he would puke up stuff a lot. But I’m pretty sure not all of it. I’m quite petrified now and super worried. He has a normal appetite and he hasn’t consumed anything in about a year. I think.

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Mia
Calico
10 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

No appetite
Vomitting
Vomiting
Lethargy

Medication Used

Painkillers

My 10 month old calico threw up all her food one night and began gagging and hacking up white foam. She wasnt eating or drinking the next day so we took her in to the vet. She is very hard to handle as is and was much worse under all that pain. They managed to get 2 xrays but nothing concerning showed up. They sent us home with meds to treat gastritis. Still no appetite and very lethargic hiding from everyone. That night she began having what I thought were convulsions while screaming in pain. Brought her back in to the vet the next morning. They sedated her, took more x rays and examined her more. They found a decent amount of sewing thread all in her gut. It was wrapped around the base of her tongue which was making everything scrunch together. They cut the string and we are now hoping she will pass it on her own. 2 days later she is still not eating or drinking. If she is not better in the next day and a half we are bringing her back to the vet once more, they believe surgery is the next step.

2 weeks ago my 8 month old cat was vomiting, extremely lethargic, and hiding from everyone . Very unlike him- he’s very social cat. Luckily, my friend is his veterinarian. We took him in the same day - fearing he had an obstruction (which can be deadly). They took x Rays and couldn’t see any obstruction upon x ray. They gave him anti nausea med and sent us home. That night he continued to vomit - and he spit up a hair tie, but continued to vomit and hide. I immediately sent her a text of the picture of the hair tie. She had us bring him in immediately fearing he had eaten more. We opted to go with surgery immediately to avoid potential intestinal damage/death of intestines. So glad we did because she found another hair tie in the small intestine and 2-3 in the colon. They are not easily seen on x Ray. He is now about 12 days post surgery and is completely back to normal. It was a very scary experience! No more hair ties in our house!

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Luke
Bengal cat
4 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Stomach Clenching
abdominal spasms

My Cat had a foreign object stuck in his small intestine. It was removed from the stomach 16 days ago. During his 10 day check up he seemed to be recovering well. The last two days he started to have abdominal spasms / clenching. Is this typical for recovery? Should I be alarmed?

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Dax
Savannah
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

none

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 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

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Jinx
Feline Feline
8 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Gagging
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?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 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

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Cabby
Singapura
10-month
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

My Cat might need a surgery to remove the string. I have following questions.

1. Can endoscopy use in string removal? And is it more effective and safe.
2. The string stuck under her tough. Will just clear the string and let the string get out naturally work?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
String foreign bodies can be very serious as some parts of the gastrointestinal tract like the intestine can concertina causing a severe obstruction and pain. The specific location and the length of a string foreign body will determine the approach by they are almost always removed with surgery; endoscopy has limitations and can only go so far and if there is a string foreign body in easy reach of an endoscope, pulling on it doesn’t usually help. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Is gabapentin enough for pain control after foreign body removal? My cat seems sore and I don’t see any difference in his behavior after gabapentin administration

how much does the surgery usually cost?

MY cat has digested a small piece of cotton, can if be harmful ? should i consult to my vet doctor ?

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