Corn (on the cob) in the dog

Animals never cease to amaze me with the things they swallow.

Unfortunately, swallowing foreign bodies is a common phenomena in both dogs and cats. 
This behaviour can stem from either playfulness, and ingestion of the foreign material by mistake, or simply due to being gluttonous, trying to eat whatever they can grab.

Meet Scooby, a two-year-old doberman. Scooby decided to chew on a corncob and swallow it. His loving owners brought him into the clinic, sick. We rarely get to clearly see the foreign body in the X-ray. Scooby’s case was really cool because it's easy to see the corncob in his abdomen.

Animals usually pass the object without complications, however, swallowing various objects can lead to serious conditions. If the object is sharp, it can cause tears of the gastrointestinal tract. Some object may be toxic to the animal, such as coins or batteries.

The most common complication is the lodging of the foreign body in the esophagus, stomach or intestine, and causing complete or partial blockage.

This is extremely important piece of information to take under account when bringing a pet home. Similarly to how we baby proof our house, we should also pet proof it.

Dogs have been known to swallow bones, balls,corn cobs, toys, sticks, stones, pins, needles, wood splinters, cloth, rawhide, leather, strings, fruit pits, and other objects. The most common foreign bodies found in cats are strings.

Any household object your pet chews on can become a foreign body problem.

Many times the owner does not witness the ingestion and is not aware or sure that the animal has ingested something they shouldn't have. Hence, it's important to be aware of symptoms that are associated with obstruction of the GIT. 

Partial obstruction allows limited passage of fluids and gas through the gastrointestinal tract, whereas complete obstruction does not allow any passage of gas and fluids past the obstruction.

A complete obstruction is a very severe condition, usually with a rapid progression and poses potential severe consequences if not treated right away.

Gastrointestinal blockage can lead to impairment of the blood flow and often to a permanent damage to the area of the blockage, infection due to bacterial overgrowth and severe dehydration.

The clinical presentation of foreign bodies depend on the location of the object and whether the object caused a partial or complete obstruction. The most common symptom associated with gastrointestinal foreign body is vomiting.

In a complete abstraction the vomiting will be profound and frequently will be accompanied also by lethargy, loss of appetite, and depression.

A pet with an untreated case of complete obstruction will probably die within only few days. In a partial obstruction, the symptoms will be less severe and intermittent. The animal will lose weight, but as long as the animal keeps drinking it may live for three to four weeks.

Foreign bodies are usually diagnosed by imaging. Some objects can be seen on a plain X-ray like in the Scooby’s case. If an animal swallows an object such as a rock, or metal object, they can be seen easily In cases that the object itself can not be seen, but the shape of the intestine reveals typical pattern that highly suggests the presence of a foreign body.

Sometimes a contrast X-ray is required. In this type of test, the animal is fed a special dyeing material that helps determining if there is obstruction and its nature. Some foreign bodies can also be diagnosed by ultrasound or an endoscopic exam.

Once the diagnosis of foreign body was established, the treatment depends on the location of the object and the pet’s medical condition. If the pet’s condition allows it, the vet will repeat the X-rays in order to assess whether the object is moving and can pass on its own. In many cases a surgical intervention is required.

In simple cases, the surgery involves only removing the object. In more complicated cases, where the blockage has caused permanent damage, the surgery is more involved and may include a partial removal of the damaged intestinal segment.

Beside removing the object most animals also require hospitalization with intravenous supply of fluids till the animal gets back on tract and is able to drink and eat on its own. The treatment usually also involves medication such as antibiotics and electrolytes supplementation.

Prevention is very important and may spare your animal from getting through a very painful and potentially life threatening  condition. It is important to pet proof your house. Keep away any object that your pet might ingest. Make sure that the toys that you give to your pets are large enough so they can not be swallowed.

Also make sure that the toys are made of good quality and can not be broken into pieces easily. Some dogs tend to chew on objects more than others, I would keep away toys from these kind of dogs — better be safe than sorry. It is very important to make sure that your pet will not have access to garbage and garbage bins.

Some dogs have extreme tendency to chew on an object when they are walked  outdoors. If that is the case with your dog and you feel that you are having difficulty controlling what your dog chews on, you can consider walking it with a muzzle on.

If your pet shows any of these symptoms, especially choking ,severe or intermittent vomiting, take it to your vet. 
Always pay attention to the toys you are giving to your pet. Make sure that they are not easily coming apart to smaller pieces that can be swallowed and cause obstruction. 

Your vet can guide you which toys and treats are ideal for your specific pet.


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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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