Foreign Body Removal Surgery

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What is a Foreign Body?

Pets occasionally swallow items never intended to be swallowed. We call them foreign bodies. “Foreign”, because the item does not belong in the body.

Dogs and cats, often put things in their mouths to carry around or just play with. Sometimes, these items end up getting swallowed. There are three possible outcomes if your pet swallows something they should not have. One… the swallowed item is vomited back out the mouth, two… the item passes through the GI tract and out in the poop, or three… It gets stuck inside your pet and surgery will be needed to get it out. That’s where we come in to lend our Helping Hands. Our goal is to get the foreign body out of your pet as safely as possible.

The size, shape, texture, and length of time the item has been inside your pet will determine how easily it can be removed. Items with coarse or jagged edges can do significant damage to the stomach and intestines. Even small, soft items can cause damage if they are lodged in there for long enough. So the key is to get your pet to surgery as soon as a possible. If significant damage has occurred, some segments of the bowel may need to be removed. Pets can live with portions of their bowel removed, but if the damage is extreme, survival could be at risk.

The most common signs that your pet may have a foreign body is vomiting and loss of appetite. Your veterinarian will likely take an x- ray or perform an ultrasound to determine if a foreign body is present and if surgery is needed. Sometimes the foreign body is quite obvious, but often, the foreign body itself may not be seen by either of these imaging tests. An obstructive pattern of gas- distended intestines can imply there is something causing a blockage. Once in surgery, occasionally we find that there is no foreign body but another cause of intestinal blockage such as twisted intestines or a growth. Either way, surgery is necessary and we will do all we can to give your pet a successful outcome. Getting to surgery as soon as possible will give your pet the best chance of survival. An intestinal blockage is life threatening!

Performing Surgery to Remove a Foreign Body

During surgery, all parts of the GI tract from the stomach through to the large intestines will be examined to be sure all foreign material is found and removed. Occasionally more than one item will be found.  Any tissue that is damaged beyond repair will be identified and removed if possible. Luckily, pets can survive with much of their GI tract removed. While your pet is at Helping Hands, we will provide fluids to help rehydrate them, antibiotics to prevent or treat infection, and good pain control medications.

Helping Hands is an outpatient hospital. That means your pet will be discharged from our hospital the same day as surgery. We do not offer after surgery care, although we do recommend it to improve the outcome for your pet. Your choices for post- op care include any 24 hour veterinary emergency center, your regular full service veterinarian, if they keep late day hours, or taking your pet home with you. Taking your pet to another veterinary facility for post-op care will be at your own expense and the costs will vary depending on the facility or the amount of care your pet will need.

Recovery after Surgery

We always hope there will be no complications and that your pet’s recovery will be quick and uneventful, but pets are living things and can often need medical support and intervention in the immediate post op period just like people do. Complications can include infection, opening of the inside or outside incisions, blood clots, bleeding, extreme alterations in blood pressure, shock and possibly death. Having your pet in a hospital where immediate intervention can occur if needed is in your pet’s best interest.

Once your pet is home, REST is very important to continued recovery. It is your job to enforce rest. Using a crate is the easiest way to ensure they lie still and rest. A small room or penned in area will still allow them to jump and move around more than they probably should so soon after surgery. We work very hard to get them safely through surgery so you will need to work just as hard to be sure they are not too active, too soon, which could cause them to open their incisions either inside or out leading to serious complications. If at any time you are concerned about your pet, please get them to your regular full service veterinarian or any veterinary emergency center right away. Acting quickly could help save their life.

Some pets will eat the night of surgery, others will take some time to start eating again. Small, frequent, soft meals with a bland diet is best for a few days. You can purchase bland, canned pet food or simply boil ground chicken or hamburger mixed with rice/pasta works well. They can be placed back on their normal diet after a few days. We don’t like them to go more than 24 hours without eating. Please see your regular, full service veterinarian or any veterinary emergency center for help if they refuse to eat for more than 24 hours.

Most pets will be feeling much better in a few days and will want to start being active again. Please don’t let them be too active too soon. We do not consider them ready for full activity for at least 2 weeks, so your job is to see that they have no fun for at least 2 weeks after surgery, no matter how great they seem to feel. Our job is to get the foreign body out. Your job is to be sure they heal properly by getting them to a veterinary hospital, if needed, enforcing rest (use a crate if needed), making sure they take any prescribed medication, using an E collar to prevent them from licking at their incision and lots and lots of TLC.

Most pets do not learn their lesson and will be repeat offenders if given the opportunity. You can’t watch your pet 24-7 so try your best to keep your house and yard free of objects that can be chewed and swallowed. Keep your trash cans covered and doors closed.  Talk to your family about why keeping things off the floor is so important. You can also use a crate when you cannot be home to monitor them.

Scheduling Surgery for a Foreign Body Removal at Helping Hands

Bloodwork (please visit our pricing page) is required for your pet.  The bloodwork we perform at Helping Hands shows us basic organ function values (kidney and liver) to help make the safest choices for anesthesia. The bloodwork we perform at Helping Hands is not diagnostic. It is always recommended that you discuss surgery and sedation with your primary veterinarian that has followed your pet’s health if you have any concerns. It is important to remember there is always risk when sedating any living animal.

We are an outpatient facility which means the pets go home the same day.  While a lot of our clients take their pets home after surgery, we always recommend you talk to your veterinarian to see if they recommend overnight monitoring be performed with them or an emergency hospital.  We always encourage owners to consider a transfer for post-op care after surgery.

If so, you can return to your full service veterinarian or a 24-hour facility for continued care at your expense. We are here to get your pet through the surgery and back into the hands of your full service veterinarian.


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