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What is Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body?

First and foremost, stomach perforation is considered an emergency situation. This health condition allows secretions, digestive fluids and other digestive material to enter areas or body cavities where these substances are not designed to be.  These substances are toxic in these areas and can cause a septic (infectious and poisonous) condition to develop quite rapidly in the host. This is a situation which can rapidly be fatal if not treated appropriately and emergently.

Stomach perforation is simply defined as a hole in the wall of any portion of the gastrointestinal tract.  For the purposes of this guide, we will discuss those perforations which are caused by foreign body ingestion.

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Symptoms of Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body in Dogs

The symptoms of stomach perforation are very similar to other conditions which affect the gastrointestinal tract of your canine family member and the signs and symptoms will vary depending on where the perforation is located within it, what caused the perforation and the duration of the obstruction which ultimately caused the perforation.  Here is a list of some of those symptoms:

  • Acute vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention (swelling)
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Regurgitation
  • Respiratory distress

Types

 

The types of stomach perforation are pretty much linked to where in the gastrointestinal tract the perforation has occurred as well as the type of obstruction which generated the perforation:

  • Intestinal 
  • Stomach or duodenum
  • Colon 
  • Gallbladder
  • Esophagus 

The various types of obstructions which are known to generate conditions for a perforation are bacterial, fungal or viral infections, parasitic infections, cancers and foreign body ingestion.  These obstructions can be partial or they can be complete.

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Causes of Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body in Dogs

The direct cause of stomach perforation due to foreign body in dogs is an obstruction caused by the ingestion of an object which defies digestion.  Here is a list of some categories of things which could be considered foreign bodies and could ultimately cause an obstruction in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract:

  • Plastic items or rocks - Dog and children’s toys, coins, human food items, nuts, bolts, screws

  • Slowly digested items like bones
  • Items that are too large to pass through the digestive system
  • Linear items like thread, rope, string, nylon stockings, carpet

The foreign body, once ingested, travels through the digestive tract and, at some point, becomes lodged somewhere within the tract and becomes an obstruction.  If the obstruction is partial, then blood flow and other fluids can generally keep moving; however, if the obstruction is complete, then nothing can get past it.  This builds up fluids behind the obstruction which can cause lots of pressure, pain and discomfort for your pet.  If the item causing the obstruction is metallic, for example, there is an additional complicating factor in that the material itself is toxic to your pet’s system.  

The inflammation created by the obstruction itself, as well as the potential for toxicity of the material of the obstruction, wears away at the intestinal wall and creates a tear or opening in it.  This opening allows toxins and the built up fluids, which would normally have moved on down the road if not for the blockage, to seep into the abdominal cavity where it was never designed to be. Serious infections and more toxins develop, creating a potentially deadly situation for your pet.

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Diagnosis of Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body in Dogs

When it comes to diagnosis of the above noted symptoms, your input will be vital to your veterinary professional or to the emergency veterinary professional who is attending your pet.  He will need to know, first and foremost, what is suspected to have been eaten by your pet and when this may have occurred.  Additionally, a complete history of the pet’s health and vaccinations (if these are not already available to him), dietary regimen, housing arrangements and exercise routine will likely be needed.  He will need to do a physical examination of your pet and will likely order blood testing as well as urine and fecal sample testing.  

He will likely also need radiographic imaging (x-rays), CT scanning, ultrasound imaging and even MRI studies if he suspects a mass, foreign body or other obstruction as the cause for the signs and symptoms.  If a foreign body is noted within the gastrointestinal tract, even if it is only partially obstructing the flow, it is in the best interests of your family pet to get it removed.  Depending on what the foreign body is, larger obstructions/perforations along with infections and toxicities are possible if it is not removed immediately.

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Treatment of Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body in Dogs

Once the diagnosis is made, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.  If your pet was brought in as an emergency, the first concern of the attending veterinary professional will be to stabilize your pet.  This may involve IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-nausea medications and hospitalization for monitoring your pet’s condition.  Once your pet’s condition is stable, surgical removal of the foreign body will be the most likely next step.  If there is a perforation, that will need to be repaired and the abdominal cavity flushed out to remove toxins and infective agents which have developed as a result of the perforation.  

Additionally, a method of drainage will likely be needed (or additional exploratory surgery to repeat the flushing process) to continue the removal of the toxic material from the body of your pet. Generally, drainage tubes are inserted during the first surgery to allow the material to drain and allow the medical staff to collect and analyse it to monitor the healing process.  This will require additional hospitalization until the attending vet feels it is safe to return your pet to your home.  You will likely have medications which will need to be administered at home for a period of several weeks or months.

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Recovery of Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body in Dogs

Stomach perforation due to foreign body in dogs can be a fatal condition for your family pet if it is not treated emergently and appropriately.  Whenever the above conditions are displayed by your canine family member or whenever you witness your pet swallowing a foreign body, very large piece of food or anything he should not ingest, please don’t put off that call to your vet.  

Once the perforation develops, the infection and toxins can spread quite rapidly throughout your pet’s system with a deadly result.  Vomiting, diarrhea and appetite changes which are not consistent with the history of your pet’s behaviors should not be ignored nor should medical assistance be put off.  Adapting a sooner rather than later approach to his medical care could save his life.

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Stomach Perforation due to Foreign Body Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Ask a Vet

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Jindo Mix

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6 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Lethargy

My dog recently pooped out sand after visiting the beach. This was followed by a normal stool. The next day my dog seemed quite lethargic. Should she visit the vet?

Oct. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello So sorry to hear about your dog. Sand can cause impaction if he ate a lot of sand. If he is having issues pooping or not feeling well, it would be best for your vet to look at your dog. They can take x rays to see if there is a lot of sand in his intestines and start him on medication to help him feel better. Good Luck. I hope your dog improves soon.

Oct. 4, 2020

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Great Pyrenees

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Fourteen Weeks

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Bloody Stool

Hello. Last night, I was with my dog outside and caught her eating up small pieces of twigs. I tried to pull them out of her mouth, but I believe she was able to swallow a few pieces. This morning, her stool was normal looking with the exception if what looked like very dark blood (almost black). Is this cause for concern? She is acting completely normal other than the change in stool this morning.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, 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 any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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