What Is a Foreign Body?

You’ll know a foreign body when you see it… disappearing into your dog’s mouth. A foreign body is an inedible object your dog might want to eat but definitely does not belong in his or her body. Common examples include socks, bones from human food, and toys. 

How do you know if your dog may have eaten a foreign body?

If your dog has eaten a foreign body, he or she may exhibit a few obvious symptoms. 

Look out for: 

  • Vomiting, especially after trying to eat or drink water 
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal tenderness or pain
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Straining to defecate or producing only small amounts of feces
  • Decreased activity level 

How Is It Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam, including x-rays, to examine your dog’s stomach and gas patterns. The vet may also perform an ultrasound to look for more subtle signs or perhaps even see the stuck material itself. They will often perform bloodwork to look for any issues with your dog’s liver or kidneys as well. Gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining, could produce the same symptoms as a foreign body. 

How Is It Treated?

Your vet will probably recommend an exploratory surgery. An exploratory surgery allows a veterinary surgeon to examine the stomach and intestines in an effort to locate the offending object.

If you or your vet suspects a foreign body, exploratory surgery should happen ASAP. The longer the foreign body remains, the more likely it will cause more problems in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract. 

Following the surgery, your vet will want to monitor your dog for the next 24 to 48 hours. They may need to spend a night or two at the animal hospital. That way, your vet can keep them hydrated with intravenous fluids, comfortable on pain medications, and ensure they are recovering well. 

Foreign Body Surgery Aftercare

This is where you come in! Create a soothing environment at home where they can rest and recover. (If they had especially invasive surgery, they may need more than two weeks.)

  • Your dog should remain quiet and calm for at least two weeks following surgery. No running, jumping, or off-leash play. 
  • Your vet will most likely send your dog home with pain medication and antibiotics. Make sure you give them as directed. Any questions, ask your veterinarian.  
  • While your dog heals, they will need to eat a bland diet. You can buy bland pet food or make it yourself using a simple recipe of chicken or lean ground beef cooked with rice.  
  • Don’t forget to follow up! Your veterinarian will most likely schedule a recheck appointment to see how your dog is doing and remove any stitches about 2 weeks after surgery.