Apr 03 2020

They Ate What?! Pet Foreign Body Dangers

Animals of all species tend to explore the world with their nose, whiskers, and of course, their mouths. That is why it is no surprise that pets eat a wide variety of things they shouldn’t and end up with a veterinary emergency. This is not just a problem with our chow-hound canines, but with cats, rabbits, lizards, and other exotic animals. 

Like toddlers, a foreign body may seem like the perfect thing to eat for our small animal friends, but these items may lead to a life-threatening situation. Pet foreign dangers is something the team at Paws, Purrs, and Exotics Animal Hospital want our pet families to be aware of to better protect their sweet companion pets.

Why Would My Pet Eat That?

You might be surprised by what a pet might investigate with their mouths. This endless curiosity often leads to trouble as $11.5 million insurance claims for pets ingesting a foreign body are filed each year. Not so uncommon, right?

Yet, we make the assumption that unappetizing things like coins and batteries won’t pose a problem. Many animals, including gerbils, snakes, lizards, birds, and other small mammals, are just as likely to eat something they shouldn’t as the family Fido (who eats everything). The problem isn’t just that your pet may choke on something, but that the foreign body will get lodged in the gastrointestinal system.

When your pet eats a foreign body and it is passed down the esophagus to the stomach, it may be too large to pass the rest of the way. Typically speaking, it takes about 10-24 hours after swallowing for something to be digested or passed through the intestinal tract. If the item is too large, it can cause an obstruction. If the item is sharp or irregular, it can also pierce the stomach or GI tract causing internal bleeding and injury.

Signs of Foreign Body Ingestion

Obviously, if a pet has ingested something they shouldn’t, they won’t be feeling well. Some general signs of this type of emergency include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Inability to defecate
  • Abrasions in the mouth and throat
  • Coughing and gagging
  • Unable to eat or drink
  • Swelling of the abdominal cavity

Particularly in very small exotics, this situation can turn life-threatening quickly. In order to diagnose a foreign body obstruction, we must examine your pet and perform diagnostics, such as X-ray and ultrasound. Sometimes the object won’t appear during the first set of imaging, so contrast dyes and repeat X-rays may be ordered.

If intestinal “bunching” occurs, with the intestines twisted and distended, the tissues around the area will begin to die. This is a critical problem and requires surgery to remove the object and repair the GI tract.

Pet Foreign Body Dangers

As with anything concerning your pet, vigilance is key in preventing an emergency. Go through the home and remove items that your pet can possibly ingest, this is basically all objects in their path that are small enough for them to swallow. Some animals are prone to chewing, also, and will chew on plastic and wires. Everything from plastic bags, wrappers, foil, marbles, coins, batteries, and so on are all interesting to a pet. Stow away these items in a safe place.

If you have additional questions about pet foreign body dangers, please call our team. We are always here to keep your pet safe! 

pawspurrsandexoticsah | Blog, Pet Safety

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