Foreign Body Obstructions: When Your Pet Eats Something They Shouldn’t

Sometimes our pets eat objects, table scraps, or food that they are not supposed to. When an animal eats its normal sized and appropriate food, it first goes to the stomach and then is further digested along the intestines. A foreign body obstruction can occur when an animal eats something and it gets lodged in part of its gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, the digestive tract is unable to propel the food and it gets stuck along the way.

The most common clinical signs of a foreign body obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty defecating or straining while defecating
  • Decreased eating and drinking

If you suspect your dog or cat has a foreign body:

A foreign body in the stomach or intestines is considered a true medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated in a timely manner. It is important that if you witness your animal ingest a foreign object and/or they show the symptoms mentioned above, that you take your pet into a veterinarian immediately. If your animal isn’t seen by a veterinarian it is possible perforation can occur (where the foreign body creates a hole in the stomach or intestines).

Your veterinarian will do a thorough physical exam and get a detailed history first to determine what needs to be done. Radiographs (x-rays) and blood work are usually done in order to help make a diagnosis. Sometimes the foreign body can be passed on its own, but surgery may be required to remove the object(s).

Bottom line:

If your animal shows any signs mentioned in this article, they should be seen by your veterinarian.


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Tuesday . 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Wednesday . 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday . 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Friday . 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday . 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Sunday . Closed


IndyVet Emergency & Specialty Hospital
5425 Victory Dr
Indianapolis, IN 46203

Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Care South
4625 East Stop 11 Road
Indianapolis, IN 46237

VCA Advanced Veterinary Care Center
7712 Crosspoint Commons
Fishers, IN, 46038