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Foley Veterinary Hospital
Christopher A. Ainsworth, DVM
Providing Quality Pet Care
Call: (251) 943-5152

Foreign Bodies in Esophagus

Nearly every pet owner has witnessed their pet chewing on something they aren’t supposed to. Oftentimes, these objects end up being swallowed. Such swallowed foreign bodies tend to get stuck in the body, and the first place they can get lodged is within the esophagus. Bones or string are the most common objects that gets caught; other common items include sewing needles, socks, fishhooks, rawhide, and wood. Regardless of what object your pet swallows, promptly removing it before it causes further damage should be a primary concern.

Symptoms of a foreign body in esophagus: 

  • Anorexia. 
  • Difficulty breathing. 
  • Excessive drooling. 
  • Gagging. 
  • Lethargy. 
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Repeatedly trying to swallow. 
  • Spitting up. 
  • Weight loss. 
  • Pawing at the mouth.

Identifying foreign bodies

When a pet owner brings in their animal either having witnessed them swallowing an article, or suspecting them having swallowed an object, most foreign bodies can be detected with an X-ray. If the item swallowed was translucent, a contrast esophagoscopy will need to be performed in order to detect the item and where it is located. This test utilizes biocompatible dyes to make transparent articles better visible in imaging.

How are foreign elements removed from the esophagus?

Once foreign objects have been positively identified, they should be removed promptly. The outlook for foreign object removal is very good, and most pets do very well. Depending on the precise location of the item, the veterinarian will advise you on the different methods of removal, and you can decide which method is best for your pet. Some objects can be removed with induced vomiting; others can be extracted with an endoscope and forceps. If the object has moved further down the esophagus, it can be pushed into the stomach with the endoscope where it will be digested and passed.

In some cases, surgery is necessary, and the object will be pushed into the stomach so it can be surgically removed via gastrotomy. Gastrotomy is a safe surgical incision that enables the veterinarian to examine the contents of the stomach and remove the foreign object without disturbing surrounding organs. If the article has punctured the esophagus, immediate surgery becomes critical. The article cannot be moved and surgery must be performed in the location of the object.

If you have observed your pet swallowing foreign items or they are exhibiting any suspicious symptoms, we strongly advise you to contact our office, and schedule an exam.