Case Study Report: The Dangers of Foreign Body Ingestion

Lab with chew toy_istock

Is your pet really just playing with that chew toy or treating it like food?
Image source: istock photo

Sammy is an approximately 13 year old neutered male German Shepherd dog that was rescued by his current owner in 2005.  His owner bought him some new toys and gave them to Sammy one Saturday afternoon in January.  Sammy must have been extra excited about his new toys, because instead of just playing with them, he made the unfortunate decision to also chew up the toys and eat parts of them.

Sammy vomited up many toy parts later that day and wouldn’t eat anything after that.  Sammy’s owner decided to bring him to see us on the following Tuesday evening since he was still not eating and had become quite lethargic.

Sammy’s physical exam findings on Tuesday showed that he was very dehydrated, depressed, and he had a painful abdomen.  In house blood work showed a mild electrolyte imbalance (caused by his anorexia and vomiting), but was otherwise normal.  His abdominal radiographs (x-rays) showed a suspicious area that we suspected to be a foreign body (possible toy parts) causing intestinal obstruction (see green arrow to suspicious area).  There is also a very dilated section of small intestines filled with gas which further increases the suspicion for a foreign body obstruction (see blue arrow).  You can also see the buckshot throughout his sides/abdomen from when he was shot prior to the owner adopting him; this is an incidental finding (we see this more often than you would think!).

Sammy’s abdmonimal x-rays several days after eating parts of his new toys.

Sammy’s abdominal x-rays several days after eating parts of his new toys.

Sammy had an intravenous catheter placed and was started on fluids to rehydrate and help stabilize him, prior to his owner taking him home for the evening.  Sammy returned Wednesday morning and he was still very dehydrated with electrolyte abnormalities and even more depressed, with a painful abdomen.  Sammy was given more IV fluids to continue his rehydration and to work on normalizing his electrolytes; he was given pain medications, and the need for surgery was discussed with the owner.  It was quickly decided that Sammy would have an abdominal exploratory surgery early Wednesday afternoon.

48cm section of diseased small intestine removed

A 48cm section of diseased small intestine was removed.

In surgery, we found a very severe gastrointestinal foreign body.  Sammy had part of a toy stuck in his stomach, which was attached to a string that led down to another portion of the toy stuck in his small intestine.  His stomach was inflamed but still healthy; however there was a 48cm section of his small intestines that was no longer viable that had to be excised (this procedure is called an intestinal resection and anastomosis). 

Repaired section of Sammy's intestines.

Repaired section of Sammy’s intestines.

His abdomen was flushed with sterile saline (in an attempt to limit any risk of post-op infection) and sutured closed.  Sammy’s procedure involved a lot of risk for postoperative problems (such as a life threatening abdominal infection, cardiac arrhythmias, and hypotension).  Sammy required 24 hours of post-operative hospitalization to further stabilize him before he went home.   Fortunately Sammy healed very well and with the dedication of our staff and his loving owner, made a full recovery!

Gastrointestinal foreign bodies (objects ingested that are not food) can cause serious and potentially life-threatening problems for our small animal patients.  If there is any chance your pet will chew apart or swallow a toy or bone, it is best to be closely supervising your pet so that you may take the object away as soon as they begin to chew it apart.  Any pet that refuses food for more than one meal, experiences repeated vomiting, or is lethargic, should be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately (especially if there is any chance they ingested something they shouldn’t have).   The amount of time that lapses from when the pet begins showing symptoms to when they end up having surgery greatly affects the likely outcome (the longer you wait, the higher the risk of a more complicated surgery. This increases cost and the risk of operative and post-operative complications).

~Dr. Jennifer Boyle

(Dr. Doering saw the case at initial presentation; Dr. Boyle was the surgeon and was assisted in surgery by Dr. Kloer)

Sammy came to visit us to have his skin staples removed two weeks after his surgery and he was feeling much better!

Sammy came to visit us to have his skin staples removed two weeks after his surgery and he was feeling much better!


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