Gastrointestinal foreign bodies are things that pets swallow that they should. Or things that are too big to digest such as bones. Generally the ingested object becomes stuck and cannot pass out on its own, leading to a gastrointestinal obstruction.

Sometimes the pet may have been given the object such as a large bone, but when it comes to other strange objects, it is always difficult to know why they decide to ingest them.

It is important to know that ingested foreign bodies that are not removed and become stuck within the gastrointestinal system can lead to damage and perforation of the stomach or intestines. This can become life threatening of not treated early enough.

Some of gastrointestinal foreign bodies that we seen previously include:

  • Large fragments of bone
  • Socks, stockings, underwear
  • Plastic or rubber toys and balls
  • Material like bedding and Tea towels
  • Tampons
  • Batteries
  • Corn cobs
  • Hair ties
  • Twine or string
  • Large Hairballs in cats
  • Magnets
  • Fishing Hooks
  • Needles
  • Rocks
  • Sand

The above image shows an X-ray of a dog who ate a bunch of small magnets. Initially we thought they were two batteries.


SYMPTOMS include;
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
In some cases an owner may witness their pet ingest something they should not have. In these cases there may be an opportunity to induce vomiting to see if they can bring it back up. However this is only possible with smaller objects and if safe to do so. This would no be possible with large or sharp objects that have a risk of becoming stuck on the way back up. More commonly however, owners are unaware their pet has eaten something and will notice one or more of the symptoms listed above.


A diagnosis is generally made with the aid of a thorough history and physical examination, along with screening X-rays. The X-ray will often show us patterns that increase the suspicion of a gastrointestinal obstruction, such as large areas of gas build up, however some objects may not always be clearly visible on an X-ray, in which case an ultrasound scan will be needed.



Many patients with gastrointestinal obstructions are unwell and need urgent supportive care such as an IV re-hydration drip, and medications to help with pain and nausea. A blood test is also important to fully assess their health status prior to surgery.



Exploratory Abdominal Surgery is needed to remove gastrointestinal Foreign body obstructions.

As mentioned gastrointestinal foreign bodies have the potential to be life threatening, and so varying degrees of damage can be present at the time of surgery. A quick diagnosis, early surgery, and appropriate supportive care will always help achieve the best outcome.

It is always best to be aware of what you pet could ingest and try to prevent it if possible.


Avoid feeding you pets things that could cause an obstruction
Avoid giving you pet toys/balls that they can destroy
Throw away old or chewed up toys or bedding
Ensure things in bins are not accessible to you pet


The Image below shows a dog who ingested an entire tea towel