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What is Gastric Foreign Body?

The ingestion of a foreign body by your companion may result in severe consequences if he is unable to pass the object through his digestive system. If you suspect that your pet may have eaten an object that could cause an obstruction, or if he is displaying symptoms of abdominal pain or discomfort, contact your veterinarian without delay.

Dogs are natural born scavengers and rather indiscriminate eaters. Some foreign body gastric events are a  result of the dog eating something that smelled good but is indigestible. Dogs, especially puppies, explore the world with their mouth. Some ingestions are an accidental result of play.

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Symptoms of Gastric Foreign Body in Dogs

The most tell-tale symptom of a dog with an obstruction is projectile vomit and diarrhea at the same time. A dog can vomit for many reasons. If you see vomit, your dog should be monitored but it does not necessarily mean he has an obstruction. It is the violent removal of all matter in the digestive tract, from whatever end is possible, that is an indicator of an obstruction. Prolonged vomiting can also indicate an obstruction.

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vocalization of pain
  • Tender abdomen
  • Loss of appetite


Dogs are known to eat many things that are not advised.

  • Rope toys
  • Clothing
  • Dog bed
  • Leashes
  • Harnesses
  • Collars
  • Blankets

Causes of Gastric Foreign Body in Dogs

A foreign body in a dog’s intestinal tract can ultimately be a result of poor management. Puppies and young dogs especially need a safe enrichment environment. When in lack, they will make their own fun, sometimes with devastating effects. All new dogs should be observed with chew toys to determine what type of chewer he or she is. Do not assume that if a toy has a chew guarantee that it is safe for your dog. Often times the manufacturer will replace the toy but that does the dog owner little good if the toy has been lodged in the intestine. Similarly, observe tags on dog toys that warn “Not for unsupervised play.” Often tug toys will not hold up to avid chewers. It’s fine to still use these toys. Simply put them away when not in use.

Make sure the entire family can adhere to management protocol and safely stow away choice items that may tempt your dog such as dirty laundry, shoes and children’s toys. When your dog is unsupervised ensure that their environment has only safe play objects. Use gates and crates to contain your dog to safe areas when unattended. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so that when he is left alone he will be content to play quietly or lay down and sleep. Different dog breeds require different levels of exercise. Dogs also have varying levels of exercise needs as they develop. Equally important, but often overlooked is a dog’s need for mental stimulation. Working dogs of all types (herding and hunting) are bred to “have a job” and frequently find life as a household pet challenging.

Diagnosis of Gastric Foreign Body in Dogs

Diagnosis of a foreign body in your dog’s intestinal tract is most definitively determined by a radiograph. Reporting an accurate history of your dog’s behavior and possibility of a management breech will be most helpful for your veterinarian. Keeping careful note of items known to be target items for your dog will assist in diagnosis.

Treatment of Gastric Foreign Body in Dogs

Dogs can sometimes pass the obstruction on their own. Supportive care may be needed to avoid dehydration. If this route is taken, observation through abdominal x-rays is often suggested. If the dog’s clinical condition worsens or x-rays prove that the obstruction is not moving, you will have to resort to surgery.

Recovery of Gastric Foreign Body in Dogs

Recovery from surgical removal of a foreign body in a dog’s intestine is generally very good. Because of the location of surgery, it is possible to develop an infection so a round of antibiotics is recommended.  If the dog is able to pass the obstruction without surgery, recovery is minimal. If surgery is required, depending on the severity of the case food and water may be introduced after twenty-four hours. Intravenous fluids are used overnight. Pain management is used to keep your pet comfortable. Exercise is restricted for three weeks.