Is there anything better than watching your pet having a ball playing with his or her toys? And what’s funnier than a mischievous puppy getting into accidental trouble? Sometimes, however, these incidences end in the ingestion of toys or other off-limits items. Think garbage, a ball of yarn, laundry or landscaping. Objects such as toys, socks and sticks are not digestible. When a dog or cat ingests an object such as these, s/he is at risk of developing a digestive tract blockage.

Foreign Body Gastrointestinal Obstruction

If your pet swallows a non-digestible object, s/he might develop a foreign body gastrointestinal obstruction. This syndrome occurs when the foreign body blocks the normal flow to the digestive tract and leads to a health emergency.

Normally, food is swallowed from the mouth and travels through the esophagus into the stomach, where the digestive process begins. The food then moves into the small intestine and eventually into the large intestines. If a dog or cat eats a non-digestible object, this object can cause a blockage, or obstruction, of the gastrointestinal tract anywhere along the way.

Signs Of A Digestive Tract Blockage

When a blockage occurs, your pet will exhibit acute signs quite rapidly. These signs can include:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Sudden reduced or lack of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • General discomfort

What To Do

If you know your pet has recently ingested a “foreign body” object, and you start to see signs of a digestive tract blockage, seek urgent veterinary medical care. Your veterinarian will perform a variety of diagnostics to evaluate for foreign body obstructions. S/he will conduct laboratory tests including:

  • Blood work
  • Fecal testing
  • Infectious testing
  • Imaging such as radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasound

These diagnostics help to rule in and rule out other causes of acute gastrointestinal signs.


Once your vet diagnoses your pet with a foreign body gastrointestinal obstruction, s/he will likely recommend surgery to remove the object and, ultimately, the obstruction. In a small number of cases, endoscopy may be the best procedure. Fortunately, if your pet is diagnosed and treated early, the surgery and treatment outcome are highly successful.

However, if the foreign body obstruction is not diagnosed quickly, it may lead to prolonged illness, permanent damage to the digestive tract and risk of a generalized abdominal infection called peritonitis. The sooner your pet is diagnosed, the better the outcome following surgery and treatment for your pet.

Therefore, if you think your pet has ingested something and could have a digestive tract blockage, please seek immediate veterinary medical care either with your regular veterinarian or with CARE. We are here 24 hours a day 365 days a year to help with any medical emergency. If you plan to bring your pet to CARE, call ahead to let us know you are coming in.

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