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Foreign Bodies in the Stomach Can Cause Vomiting in Dogs
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Race Foster, DVM
Digestive System
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The dog's stomach is a sac-like structure designed to store large volumes of food and begin the digestive process. Once eaten, most food leaves the stomach within twelve hours after entering through the pyloric sphincter area and then enters the duodenum (small intestine).

Foreign bodies of the stomach are items found in the puppy stomach that should not be there. Puppies, by nature, love to chew and play with non-food things and may intentionally or accidentally swallow these substances. Commonly found stomach foreign bodies include balls, marbles, coins, stones, bottle caps, bones, sticks, clothing, buttons, paper clips, fish hooks, etc. All are capable of being swallowed, but may not exit the stomach and instead, become lodged there.

What are the symptoms?

Vomiting is almost always the hallmark sign of stomach foreign bodies. If the object is large, such as a golf ball, the vomiting may be frequent, even twenty times a day. If, however, the foreign body is small, such as a paper clip, it may not completely block the food passage and the vomiting may be intermittent, perhaps as infrequently as once or twice a week. The puppy may have a decreased or normal appetite. Generally, the larger the foreign body, the less the appetite will be. Complete blockages result in no appetite.

What are the risks?

Foreign bodies of the stomach are always potentially serious, but may not constitute a medical emergency. Many foreign bodies eventually exit the stomach and pass harmlessly in the feces. It is the foreign bodies that become permanently lodged or that block food passage that are the most critical. The inability to eat and/or vomiting are sure signs that the foreign body is causing a problem.

What is the management?

All foreign bodies must be removed from the stomach. Some, especially if small, will pass into the intestines and exit the body with the feces. If a lubricant such as mineral oil is administered, it may be especially helpful at moving the foreign bodies, such as a small piece of cloth or small fragments of bone, into the intestine. Mineral oil, however, is of little help in aiding the passing of large objects such as balls. If an object is going to pass naturally, it usually occurs within 48 hours of ingestion. If vomiting begins, or the object fails to naturally pass, then surgical removal is the only option. Left untreated, gastric foreign bodies usually result in ulceration, starvation, dehydration, and eventually death. If your puppy ingests a foreign object, always consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate therapy.

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