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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.

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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Goldendoodle

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Panting, Rust Color Tongue

My dog got a hold of a piece of wooden shim...thin....did not choke cough....I was not able to catch him to get it out of his mouth he did chew it but not sure how much he actually chewed up. Concerned for bowel obstruction, incarceration, or perforation.

Aug. 7, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is difficult for me to say what might happen with your dog after he ate this as I cannot see you how long it was or what he actually ate. It would be best to monitor him closely over the next few days for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite. If he shows any of those signs, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian immediately. They will be able to examine him and take X-rays if needed to see if he needs further care. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Aug. 8, 2020

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Fern

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Bernese Mountain Dog

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Lethargy

My dog ate a chicken souvlaki on a skewer. More than a week later she developed a cyst that she was given antibiotics for. A few days after that 4 inches of the skewer was poking from inside out and my husband pulled the next few inches out. She seems fine and not in pain. Drinking water but not eating food. Does she need to have surgery to close the ‘performation’ off? Or will it close on its own

Aug. 18, 2018

Fern's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If the skewer was poking out of the skin due to puncturing the gastrointestinal tract and skin you should visit a Veterinarian immediately as we would be concerned about infection. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 18, 2018

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Clifford

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Golden Retriever

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My golden retriever got ahold of an eyebrow pencil which had a small brush on one end. The end with the brush is missing and cannot be sure if the dog ingested it. I am concerned because while the bristles of the brush were not metal, the middle piece is. The entire brush is no longer than inch and my dog currently does not have any symptoms. I am wondering if since he is a larger dog and it was a very small piece that he may have gotten ahold of, should I be concerned?

July 24, 2018

Clifford's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any foreign object with a sharp edge is concerning and even though it is short, it just needs to turn sideways once for it to cause an issue; if you believe that the pencil was consumed it would be a good idea to visit your Veterinarian for an x-ray to see if it was consumed and to see where it is on its ‘journey’. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 24, 2018

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Clyde

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Min pin/chicuahah

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Diarrhea With Some Blood

My dog has off and on diarrhea. Last bowel movement had clots. He was at a kennel a week and half ago. Also had kennel cough vaccine 2 weeks ago and a change in his food. What could be wrong with him

June 24, 2018

Clyde's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

A change (especially a sudden change) in diet may cause gastrointestinal upset which may lead to diarrhoea; also an infection picked up at the kennel may also lead to diarrhoea; stress, medication side effects, parasites, poisoning, foreign objects among other causes may also lead to diarrhoea. Without examining Clyde, I cannot say for certain but you should visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 25, 2018

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Chipper

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Terrier mix

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Lethargy
Whimpering

Hello. My dog has been lethargic since yesterday evening, and has been reluctant to exert energy to do things like jump onto the couch or down off of the bed. He ate dinner and breakfast, has had multiple solid bowel movements, and hasn’t vomited, but is still lethargic, and his abdomen seems to be sensitive to the touch. Touching his abdomen results in whimpering. It is possible that he ate wood, tape, or other small objects yesterday during the day. Is this an emergency situation, or should we continue to monitor his behavior?

Feb. 4, 2018

Chipper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. If there is a possibility that Chipper ate those foreign objects, and he is painful in his abdomen today, he needs to be seen by a veterinarian. They'll be able to assess him, take x-rays or do lab work if needed, and see what is going on with him. I hope that he is okay.

Feb. 4, 2018

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Diesel

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Roderman

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

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Void In Stomach

My Doberman swallowed a rib dog bone. I woke up to extreme vomiting that was bloody I rushed him to the vet where they did X-ray to confirm he had a 2 4” pieces in his abdomen. The vet was certain in the placement and that it was a dog bone meant to dissolve surgery wasn’t necessary. Antibiotics coating medicine anti vomit and soft foods. He went through that medicine round and bout 2 weeks later he had severe diarrhea wouldn’t take water and wasn’t himself. Back to the vet more X-rays, bone was gone however they said he had a small void in his stomach. More antibiotics and anti vomit medicine. I’ve kept him on soft food mixed with senti stomach dry food seems better however I wasn’t really given a clear understanding of the void? Will this heal on its own? He seems much better in the last week but don’t want to rock the boat without knowing all the details

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Sky

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Mix

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4 Months

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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None

My dog brought a stick home this night and was crewing on it, I didn’t know it could harm her so I let her. She swallowed some pieces of it a couple of hours ago and hasn’t have any symptoms, but I’m concern since she’s a small puppy ( will be a large dog when full grown). Should I wait for symptoms or just being her to the vet in the morning?

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Jackie

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Boston Terrier

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Diarrhea

Hi my Boston Terrier just ate a chicken leg bone yesterday. During the night, she had diarrhea 3 times and threw up once. Aside from that, she is her regular self. Should I be worried ?

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