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Felix & Fido Ate my Homework!

Sep 16, 2009

Lyons Redstone Review

By Dr. Kelly Might
Surgical Intern-AMVS

It’s that time of year again and autumn is right around the corner - kids are back in school and pets are at home alone left to their own devices. Pretty soon homework will go missing and the little ones will be blaming the dog for its disappearance. Though the dog may not be to blame for the homework, it is important to remember that one common problem in curious dogs and cats alike is the ingestion of foreign objects. Depending on the object ingested, the problem can become a surgical emergency.

An intestinal obstruction is when the normal flow of gastrointestinal contents is blocked by foreign material or abnormal tissue (inflammatory tissue, infectious tissue or cancer).  Ingestion of foreign material is more common in younger animals but can happen in any age pet.  Cats and dogs can ingest string or thread that can cause the intestine to bunch up. This type of foreign body can saw through the intestines as they attempt to move it through the tract, which can lead to severe intestinal damage.

Some common foreign bodies may include bones, corn cobs, cloth, or tennis balls.  However, with the kids back in school, remember to keep a clean workspace and don’t leave out erasers, rubber bands, and other school/office supplies, as these too can catch Felix or Fido’s attention.

If an object is causing an obstruction, the most common clinical sign you may see is vomiting. However, other signs may include pain, anorexia, diarrhea, weakness or collapse.  If you notice any combination of these signs, it is important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian.

A physical exam may reveal abdominal pain, while radiographs (x-rays) may show an enlarged or dilated stomach and/or intestines.  Depending on the material, some foreign bodies also may be seen on the film (such as rocks and metal objects).  Blood work and ultrasound may be required prior to being able to make a definitive diagnosis.

Obstructions can be life threatening if the gastrointestinal (GI) tract ruptures or if the tissues die.  If the GI-tract ruptures, intestinal fluid will leak into the abdominal cavity. This event may cause a severe, life-threatening peritonitis. To avoid this complication, foreign bodies should be removed as early as possible.

Exploratory surgery is needed to remove possible obstructions and to evaluate the stomach and intestines. Many foreign bodies can be removed by making a cut into the GI tract and removing the material.

Post operative monitoring for any signs of infection, the ability of the pet to eat and drink normally, and overall health is very important.  Therefore, hospitalization following surgery may range from 24 hours to multiple days, depending on the severity of the individual case.

The prognosis in each case is based on individual variables, but pets with foreign bodies that are caught early with no major damage generally have a good prognosis.

For more information regarding intestinal foreign bodies, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com.

AMVS is a 24-hour veterinary facility providing specialty internal medicine, surgery, emergency and critical care, physical rehabilitation, pain management, and blood bank services for pets. They are located in Longmont at 104 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.AspenMeadowVet.com.

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