1. Administer CPR as required.
  2. Examine your pet carefully before attempting to remove a foreign body. Any object that is penetrating through the chest wall should be left in place and veterinary attention sought immediately. Removing a foreign body from the chest can exacerbate breathing difficulties.
  3. If there are obvious wounds communicating with the chest, cover these (for example with a dressing or even plastic wrap) to seal the hole.
  4. Affected animals may have severe internal injuries and potentially other wounds such as fractures. Avoid excessive movement and excitement and transport your pet to the vet immediately.
  5. If the animal is bleeding, apply gentle pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding.


A penetrating foreign body occurs when a foreign body enters the tissues of the body. This creates wounds at the site of entry as well as internally, and in some cases also creates exit wounds.

Depending on the type of foreign body involved, it can be difficult to find primary or secondary wounds.


Sometimes the presence of a foreign body is obvious, either because the accident was observed or if it protrudes from the animal. Because these are traumatic injuries affected animals will often try to run away.

  • Obvious foreign body still lodged in body
  • Pain
  • Wound or wounds
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)
  • Haemorrhage
  • Collapse
  • Death


Common penetrating foreign bodies include arrows, bullets, sticks, fence posts, fish hooks or other sharp objects.


The external injuries are not a good reflection of the extent of internal injuries. On presentation, your vet will assess your animal and may provide intravenous fluids, oxygen, pain relief and intensive care.

It may be necessary to perform x-rays or ultrasound to assess the location of the foreign body and plan removal. Surgery is usually required to remove a penetrating foreign body.


Wingfield WE (2001) Abdominal Injuries. In: Veterinary Emergency Medicine Secrets 2nd. Ed. Wingfield WE (ed). Philadelphia, USA: Hanley & Belfus Inc.

Culp WTN & Silverstein DC (2009) Abdominal Trauma. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.