Foreign bodies in dogs
Throughout a dog’s life, it is almost certain that they will end up eating something they shouldn’t or find something from the environment, like a thorn or broken glass, stuck in their skin.
If a dog eats something it shouldn’t and it’s unable to be digested or pass through the gastrointestinal tract it can cause a partial or full obstruction of the oesophagus, stomach or intestines.
Things that get caught or imbedded under our pet’s skin are also classed as foreign bodies, and these can often be a little harder to notice.
Depending on a dog’s breed and diet, it typically takes between 4-12 hours for them to digest food, therefore if your dog starts showing any of the below symptoms, something might be stuck and you should speak to a vet right away if you think they might have eaten something they shouldn’t have.
It’s also important to check your dog’s fur, skin and paws following a walk to make sure there aren’t any lumps of bumps that shouldn’t be there.
There are various symptoms to indicate that your dog may have ingested a foreign body:
- Constipation or difficulty going to the toilet
- Diarrhoea (if the blockage is towards the end of the small intestine)
- Abdominal pain and whimpering or growling when you touch their tummy
- Loss of appetite
If left untreated, foreign body obstruction is sadly a very severe and life-threatening condition. Objects may lead to poisoning or tears in the stomach and intestines and could lead to death within as little as 4 days. The quicker it is noticed, the better chance they have of making a speedy recovery.
Signs for a foreign body in the skin can be quite different to something they’ve ingested, and these might not show until an infection has set it in. Symptoms include:
- Signs of discomfort
- Clawing at their eyes or ears
- Lameness or limping
- Chewing or licking a particular area
- Hair matting
Dogs are natural explorers and many non-edible items will understandably pique their interest. They are going to want to get their paws on something that smells appealing, especially food items around the house that might be toxic to them.
But many dogs will also eat an array of other foreign bodies. Some of the items our Joii vets found include underwear, plastic green army men, a brass model pig and an entire plastic water bowl! Luckily all dogs, in this case, were successfully treated and recovered with no problems.
While on their adventures, dogs will also find themselves in bushes and brambles and have to walk over pavements and paths, so it’s no surprise that they sometimes get things stuck to their coat, skin and paws.
This can be from stepping on broken pieces of glass, running through a field and getting covered in grass seed, or by getting tangled in a thorn bush, bringing a foreign body with them as they pull free.
Prevention is always better than cure. To prevent your dog from getting an internal blockage, make sure their toys are an appropriate size and that they don’t make a habit of chewing things like your socks or underwear.
You need to watch out for the toys they play with, as poor-quality ropes and raw bones can disintegrate and splinter. All dogs are at risk of gut blockages, but young puppies are especially susceptible because they are teething, and they often tend to be more enthusiastic to put every object into their mouths.
When out and about on walks, you must protect your pet by preventing them from eating objects found amongst the outdoors such as sticks and stones. Make sure they do not eat plants as these could be poisonous; however, it is safe and normal for your dog to eat grass as this is a common behaviour used by dogs to induce vomiting and settle their stomach.
With foreign bodies of the skin, be mindful where you walk your dog - especially when visiting wooded areas - and try to keep them away from prickly bushes. You must also ensure that your house and garden are free from any broken glass, debris or other sharp objects.
It is essential that the blockage is noticed immediately so you can get to an emergency vet straight away, as your vet can administer an injection to make them sick depending on what foreign body they have eaten.
Do not feed your dog in the meantime until you can see a veterinary professional, and never attempt to make your dog sick or use medication at home, as this can exacerbate the problem and make them extremely poorly.
In the case of a foreign body being discovered, your vet may need to carry out an x-ray, an endoscopy and possibly surgery under anaesthesia to remove the foreign body, generally followed by a course of pain relief, antibiotics and electrolytes, if dehydration has occurred as a result of the blockage.
Most dogs will also require an intravenous supply of fluids until they are able to eat and drink on their own. In the days following treatment, ensure you keep activity levels to a minimum and feed them a bland diet, alongside plenty of fresh, accessible water.
For thorns or glass stuck in your dog’s paws, depending on the severity and how deep it is lodged, small objects visibly protruding from the surface can be removed with a pair of tweezers and gently squeezing, followed by cleaning the wound and covering it with a sterile dressing.
If you suspect there is a large amount of glass in your dog’s paw, it’s generally best not to attempt to remove it yourself as this could be dangerous for both you and your dog. You should contact a veterinary expert who may need to carry out an x-ray to determine how big the piece of glass is and the severity of the wound. Soaking the affected area in warm water and bandaging should help ease discomfort in the meantime, until you can get to a vet.
If you think your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have or are showing signs that something is bothering their skin or paws, always speak to your vet.
If you have an Animal Friends dog or cat policy, you can download the Joii app to make free video calls to qualified vets, who are there to help you with any concerns you might have.