What Is A Foreign Body Removal In Pets, & How Is It Performed?

GI Foreign Body Removal

Pets, particularly dogs, are very curious eaters. No doubt, as a responsible pet owner, you take care of your furry pals. You provide your pups and kittens with the perfect foods and the best possible care. But one can’t deny that food isn’t the only thing the dogs try to ingest. They always love to explore new sights, smells, and tastes. But this curiosity can land them in serious trouble. Because sometimes, they might eat tissues, sticks, paper, food wrappers, wicker, and other foreign objects. 

Some of these objects may pass through the intestines without causing any problem. But sometimes, pets may swallow something hard to pass through the intestinal tract or stomach. Which ultimately creates gastrointestinal foreign body obstruction. It has been observed that most dog owners report finding such types of objects in their pet’s vomit or stool. 

In short, indigestible objects can lead to foreign body obstruction, which can occur at any point in the gastrointestinal tract. Though some obstructions can be easily removed using endoscopic techniques, sometimes dogs undergo abdominal surgery. Foreign body obstruction may sound like a simple thing, but it could be life-threatening in reality. Therefore, it's a medical emergency for pets and should be treated on an emergency basis. 

What Signs Do Animals Show?

How do you know if your pet has GI obstruction? Here are the following signs and symptoms after a pet swallows an indigestible foreign body object. Before discussing the clinical signs, it would be kept in mind that the signs mainly depend on the object's location, size, type, and duration. However, the most common signs include: 

  • Frequent vomiting (it could be liquid or solid food) 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Severe abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Inability to perform normal routine activities 
  • Regurgitation
  • Fever 

These signs are not only the indication of GI obstruction. But it could be due to the other health issues of the pets, both dogs and cats. According to the veterinary experts, the best thing you can do to know if your pet is suffering from a foreign body obstruction is to call the health care expert. You can’t ignore the signs because a gastrointestinal obstruction is a veterinary emergency. If it is not treated timely, it can result in severe complications such as infection on the entire body, sepsis, rupture of the GI tract, etc., which could result in the death of the pets. 

Identification & Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms are not enough to treat the GI foreign body removal from the pets. It requires proper identification and diagnoses to make wise decisions about the medication and surgical procedures. So, once your pet has been admitted, veterinarians initiate a thorough physical examination, including the hydration status evaluation, abdominal palpation, vitals, and a complete blood test. Here are the following methods to diagnose the foreign body obstruction: 

Radiography (X-rays) – before performing the surgeries, veterinarian experts perform the Radiography or X-ray, which is quite helpful in uncovering the gas dilation of the intestinal tract and objects like bones or metals.  

Ultrasonography – Surgeons perform ultrasonography to examine the intestinal wall layers and other abdominal organs. This method is considered best for discovering the objects such as fabric or plastic. In addition to this, ultrasound is also helpful in exposing some intra-abdominal issues. 


Soon after the successful diagnosis, surgeons start preparing for the surgical procedure. During the surgery, experts make an incision through the abdominal wall to remove the gastrointestinal obstruction. After entering the abdomen, the surgeon first examines the whole gastrointestinal tract. This examination is done through direct visualization and palpation to localize the foreign body. Moreover, the surgery for the GI foreign body removal may be the combination of any of the following procedures: 

Enterotomy: This procedure revolves around the incision of the intestinal wall. The foreign body is removed to get the dogs back to their normal lives. After the successful removal, the veterinarians close the wounds with sutures. 

Enterectomy: If a certain section of the intestinal wall is infected or unhealthy, veterinarians choose to perform the enterectomy. During this procedure, a section of the intestines is resected. Then the resected ends are apposed with the healthy tissues. 

Gastrotomy: It includes the opening in the stomach that makes the removal of the body objects easy. After successful foreign body removal, the opposed ends of the linear incisions are closed with suturing. 

Post-Surgery Care

During the hospitalization, healthcare providers regularly give intravenous fluid therapy, which is crucial to restoring fluid loss before and during the surgery. Moreover, this therapy is also important to maintain the hydration level of the pets. Furthermore, veterinarians may suggest a complete pain management plan, including pain killers, antibiotics, antacids, and prokinetics. So it's the responsibility of the pet owners to give these medications timely as per the recommendations and instructions of the experts. Furthermore, activities like jumping, running, swimming, bathing should be avoided for a couple of days. Instead, spend time with your pet and try to keep them calm as much as possible. 

Potential Complications 

Post gastrointestinal foreign body removal surgery is uncommon but can appear sometimes. These complications may include: 

  • The wound gets infected or disrupted 
  • Bowel narrowing could lead to the intestinal obstruction 
  • Breakdown of the bowel incision, which could be life-threatening 

Take-Home Tips

Dogs' love for their owner is unconditional. In return, it's our responsibility and duty to keep a close eye on the pets' activities. In addition to the timely food and hygiene of the dogs, it's also very important to ensure that there are no dangerous objects around the pets. We have always heard the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure. The same is true for keeping your dogs healthy and fit. However, unfortunately, if any clinical sign appears, don’t take it for granted and visit the veterinarian's clinic as soon as possible.