1. If a foreign body is lodged in your pet’s mouth and it is safe to do so, you may be able to remove it (however some animals become distraught and require sedation).
  2. If you can see a linear foreign body anchored around the base of your pet’s tongue or protruding from the anus, avoid the temptation to remove by pulling as this may cut through the intestines. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
  3. If an animal has just swallowed a foreign body it may be possible to expel this by inducing vomiting – however, the decision must be made on a case by case basis as some foreign bodies may damage the stomach or oesophagus if vomiting is induced. Contact your veterinarian for advice. You may be instructed to induce vomiting or to present the animal at the clinic so that your veterinarian may induce vomiting.
  4. Any animal with a known predisposition for eating foreign bodies and a history of vomiting/inappetence should be presented to a veterinarian immediately.


Ingestion of a foreign body occurs when an animal swallows an indigestible item that can lodge in the intestines.


  • Witnessed chewing on indigestible items
  • Hypersalivation
  • Vomiting
  • Inappetence
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Restlessness/agitation
  • Occasionally, string or a linear foreign body may be seen protruding from the anus. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO REMOVE THIS.


  • In the majority of cases, foreign bodies are ingested by animals with indiscriminate eating habits. They may include toys, ornaments, clothing, and items from the rubbish or compost such as stones from fruit, corn on the cob or items they can chew into pieces. These may fully or partially obstruct or block the intestines.
  • Other potential foreign bodies include some rawhide food treats, hair balls (in cats) and bones.
  • Linear foreign bodies include items such as string, tinsel, ribbons, rubber bands, stockings and rope which may lodge at the base of the tongue or in the stomach and cause plication of the intestines.
  • Animals that ingest foreign bodies often, but not always, have a habit of eating things they should not.
  • Foreign bodies can become lodged in the oral cavity, the oesophagus, the stomach or any section of the intestinal tract.


Veterinary care depends on the type of foreign body, the condition of the animal at the time of presentation and the location of the foreign body within the gastrointestinal tract.

Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and often x-rays, ultrasound and potentially other imaging such as a Barium study to locate the foreign body. In many cases surgical removal is required, and in severe cases sections of the gastrointestinal tract may also need to be removed.

Where there is leakage of intestines, affected animals may require intensive care, transfusions, antibiotics and other medications. Multiple surgical procedures may be required.

However in a few cases, some items may pass, particularly if the animal is hydrated with intravenous fluids and is otherwise well.


Tyrell D & Beck C (2006) Survey of the uses of radiography vs. ultrasonography in the investigation of gastrointestinal foreign bodies in small animals. Veterinary Radiology and Ultrasound 47:404-408.