GI Foreign Bodies In Pets

Our pet’s curiosity and playful personalities are some of our favorite parts of having them around however, this can often lead to our furry family snacking on some not-so-friendly things. If your pet ingests anything that they’re not supposed to, get them seen by a family veterinarian or take them to an emergency hospital, never wait for them to start showing symptoms, the earlier they can get treated the better.

When our pets eat something they shouldn’t there are a few things that can happen: 


Many things we use in our daily lives that aren’t safe for our pets to ingest. One of the most dangerous and toxic things your dog could eat is galvanized metals such as nuts, bolts, fishing sinkers, drapery weights, and other hardware that may contain Zinc. Zinc is also found in pennies. The consumption of zinc often causes fatal side effects if not treated such as liver and kidney failure. 

Other toxic substances include lilies, grapes, chocolate, garlic, and onion.

Intestinal Obstruction:

Another possibility is obstruction. When a piece of an object is too large to pass through the GI tract, it can become lodged in the stomach or intestines. Some common items include:

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Clothing seams
  • Small children’s toys
  • Pet toys
  • Stuffed animals

Lodged objects block food from entering or being absorbed by the body. They can also perforate and damage the intestinal section they’re lodged in. Perforation of the intestine can cause contaminated GI contents to leak into the abdominal cavity causing life-threatening peritonitis, a life-threatening infection that can be fatal if not treated immediately.  

Intestinal Plication:

Cats in particular enjoy eating linear objects such as string, yarn, rope, tape, and Christmas tinsel. If one end of the string becomes tethered to the base of the tongue or any other internal structures, your cat’s intestines will bunch up, or plicate, around the string and may perforate their intestinal wall. 

Signs and Symptoms of GI Foreign Bodies

Common symptoms of a foreign body are 

  • vomiting 
  • diarrhea 
  • lethargy 
  • decreased appetite 
  • dehydration. 

Most animals with a blockage or obstruction will also stop defecating as food is being blocked from the body. 

Diagnosis of GI Foreign Bodies in Pets

Your vet may use X-Rays to be able to locate and identify the foreign body. Sometimes, a contrast agent is added, such as Barium, to help in identifying the foreign body. Barium can stick to items like clothing that aren’t detected on X-Rays. After the contrast agent is ingested, several X-Rays are taken over time to track any movement of the foreign body.

Blood work may also be needed to determine if there are any infections or physiological imbalances that are caused by perforation or obstruction. 

Treatment of GI Foreign Bodies in Pets

Once diagnosed, your vet will decide whether the foreign body needs to be removed. If removal is necessary, two methods can be used. When the foreign body is lodged in the stomach, surgery can be avoided by using an endoscope for removal. However, if the foreign body is lodged in the intestines, surgery is necessary. 

Foreign body surgery involves an incision to the intestine near the foreign body and removal through the incision. The intestines are then sutured to ensure a leak-proof seal. Linear bodies that are mostly found in cats, require several incisions to remove the entire length of the string. 

If the foreign body has perforated the intestinal wall where it is lodged, resection and anastomosis may be performed. This is when the damaged part of the bowel is removed and the ends are sutured together. 

Some pets require several days of hospitalization and IV fluids and medications. 

Prevention of GI Foreign Bodies in Pets 

Pet Toys: Choose sturdy toys that your pets can not chew apart and swallow pieces of.

Children’s Toys: Keep your pet safely contained when children are playing with toys. When it comes to storage, make sure the toys are in a closed container out of reach from your pet.

Bones: While a common stereotype in media, bones can be quite dangerous for your dog. Any bones or treats that your dog can chew into small pieces and swallow are never recommended. 

Craft Supplies: Keep all string, yarn, beads, & any other craft supplies in closed containers out of your pet’s reach.