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What is Esophageal Obstruction?

An esophagus, the tube-like hose that transmits food from a dog's mouth to its diaphragm muscle to its stomach, completes this process in approximately five seconds. Unfortunately, that rapid time span makes it just as easy for foreign objects (balls, bones, paper, rocks and tissue) to get lodged as well, leading to vomiting or regurgitation.

There's no doubt about it, dogs eat weird and unusual things, sometimes with frequency. When a dog ingests something large, too large to pass through the throat (esophagus), there's a chance that the esophagus can become blocked. This will result in serious swelling and blockage, you will notice signs of pain right away, and should act with urgency to seek proper medical attention.

Esophageal Obstruction Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

Symptoms of Esophageal Obstruction in Dogs

Before an animal vomits something up or out, there are other symptoms pet owners can be aware of, including:

  • Abdominal contractions (looks like dry heaving)
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Lip licking
  • Pacing
  • Pawing at its face
  • Salivation

Regurgitation and vomiting will be the most obvious signs though. However, pet owners should not assume that it will happen as soon as they eat. While it can happen within a few minutes, regurgitation or vomiting could be hours or days later.

Types

Three common areas, which are more narrow than other areas, where foreign objects get stuck in the esophagus include:

  • Base of the heart
  • Diaphragm
  • Lower neck near chest cavity

While liquid foods may have a fighting chance of passing through, chunky foods will not get far as long as the object is firmly lodged in these areas.

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Causes of Esophageal Obstruction in Dogs

Unlike other illnesses, esophageal obstruction in dogs is due to swallowing foreign objects. If the item cannot get to the stomach and come out through the bowels, it is usually stuck somewhere in the esophagus, leading to regurgitation or vomiting.

Sharp objects are even more dangerous because they can lead to punctures or affect the esophageal muscle walls for regular eating.

Pneumonia can become risky if the muscle walls are closed.

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Diagnosis of Esophageal Obstruction in Dogs

A veterinarian may inquire about the color of the bile to determine the pH level.

  • pH of 5 or less is a sign of gastric acid and vomiting
  • ph of 6 or higher is a sign of regurgitation

While a pet owner may commonly mistake vomiting for regurgitation, the appearance of bile after food has been in a dilated esophagus may have the same fluid appearance, specifically if it has had time to set in water or saliva.

If the dog vomits or regurgitates while in the examination room, that bile will be examined as well. Plain thoracic radiographs or fluoroscopy procedures may also be used to determine whether the dog is vomiting or regurgitating.

If the vomiting is due to gastrointestinal diseases, a blood count and serum chemistry profile will be used to examine the abdomen. If the situation is more serious, an endoscopy or surgery may be needed.

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Treatment of Esophageal Obstruction in Dogs

Under anesthesia*, the surgeon's goal will be to remove any and all foreign objects from the esophagus. It can be removed either through the mouth or pushed out through the stomach using an endoscope and forceps.

If neither exit route works, then surgery is the alternative. The chest cavity and esophagus will be surgically opened to remove the foreign objects.

  • Midline incision - Foreign objects in the bottom of the neck

  • Right side of chest incision - Foreign objects in the base of the heart
  • Left or right side of chest incision - Foreign objects in front of the diaphragm

Outside of these three incisions, some medical professionals may choose to surgically open the abdomen near the midline area to pull the foreign object into the stomach area.

*Although rare, it is a mild possibility that death may occur from anesthesia. Monitoring devices used for blood pressure, electrocardiogram (EKG), expiratory carbon dioxide levels, inspiratory or pulse oximetry) a surgeon should immediately be alerted of any complications while the surgery is being completed.

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Recovery of Esophageal Obstruction in Dogs

In the best case scenario, the foreign object will be removed, and the dog will usually heal within a few days. However, if the item cannot be pulled out or pushed out, there is the possibility of infections during surgery. This is why antibiotics are mandatory during surgery and a certain amount of days later. If an infection happens anyway, it will usually show up within two to five days.

Signs of infection include:

  • Esophagitis (inflammation that may damage esophagus tissues)
  • Fever
  • Foul odor near surgical wounds
  • Heartburn
  • Lethargy
  • Pain near surgical wounds (outside of mild sensitivity)
  • Pus near surgical wounds
  • Regurgitation
  • Swelling near surgical wounds

Seroma formation, or fluid accumulation, may require draining if problems occur but it can usually resolve on its own.

For additional regurgitation after surgery, a catheter will be used to widen (i.e., dilate) the esophagus to make sure no additional foreign objects are inside and to check on the healing process.

Swelling should diminish within a few days if there are no additional complications.

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Esophageal Obstruction Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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Esophageal Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Miniature Pinscher

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing Licking His Tongue Out Licking On Everything

whTs wrong with him

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say what might be going on without being able to see him, but it is possible that he has dental disease or a sore tooth, as those thing s can happen with that problem. It would be best to have hims seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him, see what might be going on, and get treatment for him. I hope that all goes well for him!

Oct. 8, 2020

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German Shepard

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Fifteen Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up Hard Pieces Of Bone

My German Shepard threw up bile this morning as I was wiping it up it turned into hard pieces, looks like sharp pieces of bones and something I can not describe

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is having any signs of vomiting or diarrhea, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Dachshund

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Eleven Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Concave Chest

Has vomited and continues to act like something is stuck in throat a little drooling

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is still having this problem, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them if needed.

Oct. 17, 2020

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Seven Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Salivating

Noticed my dogs was salivating. Tried checking for something in throat. Felt something but then when I tried again I couldn’t feel it. Eating and drinking fine. Do I try peroxide?

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- I would not try hydrogen peroxide for your pets case. I would have his oral cavity examined by a veterinarian. They will be able to tell you if everything looks normal and if he is still hypersalivating they will likely recommend some tests to assess for the underlying cause. I hope he feels better soon.

July 24, 2020

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Jack Russell Terrier

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing Gagging

He’s been coughing heaving like for a few days it’s gotten to we’re when he goes out to go to the bathroom he changes his mind and wants to go back in almost as if it’s too hard to walk there to go pee he’s ok when he’s laying down though

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that's happening to your dog. If this problem has been going on for more than a couple of days, and doesn't seem to be improving, and it's to the point where he seems lethargic, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. He may have a heart or lung problem or he may have tracheitis. Your veterinarian would be able to examine him, listen to his heart and lungs, and see what might be going on. I hope that everything goes well for him.

July 22, 2020

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Ivy

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Bichon

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11 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Gulping

Good evening everyone! I have an 11 month old Havanese, she is 4 days in recovery from spaying surgery and I gave her a little (thumb sized) beef bone as a treat (I also heard it's good for natural cleaning process for the teeth). I have to mention it was boiled as the vet recommended I boil it first. Well the thing is, Ivy enjoyed it for about 5 to 10 minutes as she was playing around with it and suddenly i heard like a bigger chunk of the bone broke and she immediately started acting weird, I knew she was choking and I tried a few things to make her feel better and indeed she stopped after we took a walk outside, she was urging to eat some grass so I let her do her thing but not too much. Then I checked her throat again and it seemed like she swallowed the bone. Now she's really chill, sleeps or even plays but I'm wondering if there are chances it got stuck somewhere on the way cause she still does this swallowing once in a while and gulps like it's something but I can't really tell.

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Jack

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Havanese poodle

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Restless
Chewing
Paw Licking
Lip Licking
Deviant Behavior

My havanese poodle mix has separation anxiety and we went out to dinner and came back and he ate half his dog bed and threw up the fabric on the couch. He’s been restless, coughing, licking his lips, and he threw up again an hour later after we got home, but I’m still afraid there might be some residual fabric in his esophagus and think he might be suffering from an esophageal obstruction. Do you think I should take him to the vet to get him checked out? He’s been eating but I’m just quite concerned considering he’s been coughing and licking his lips frequently. I also want to add that he went outside and began to eat grass which he rarely does. I know this could be a sign that he knows he has to throw up.

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alexa

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Yorkie

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Threw Up Liquid With Slight Foam

On Monday my 7 pound dog ate a small rawhide type bone that got lodged in her throat. She shook her head violently to get it out. I was trying to assist by pushing on her throat. As we were headed to the veterinary hospital I put my finger in her throat and she coughed up the lodged bone. Along with the bone I noticed dripping of blood. The hospital was closed on Monday so I went home. During Tuesday night she threw up liquid with slight foam. This happened one time. She is eating and drinking normally. She seems ok although I am thinking to take her in for x-rays. Is scoping a better option or even needed at this time?

Esophageal Obstruction Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,500

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