Featured Pet: Bella!
Meet our Featured Pet, Bella!
Age: 8 months
Breed: Cocker spaniel mix
Presenting Complaint: Vomiting
Diagnosis: Esophageal Foreign Body
Bella was presented to Hickory Veterinary Hospital’s emergency service on 9/16/18 for evaluation of excessive vomiting. Bella had been given a bully stick the day before and about 30mins later began vomiting profusely. Bella was seen at her referring veterinarian and was given medications. That night Bella continued to vomit once an hour all night and was unable to hold down any medications. The owners noted that when Bella vomited it looked as if she was choking.
Upon presentation Bella vomited two small piles of white foam in the exam room. She was QAR (quiet, alert and responsive) but otherwise normal. Bella was admitted to the hospital for IV fluids, supportive care and a surgical consult in the morning.
A review of the radiographs suggested that Bella had a foreign body in her esophagus. Bella was placed under general anesthesia for endoscopy that morning. The
scope revealed a large portion of the bully stick was lodged in Bella’s esophagus just cranial to her pyloric sphincter. Her esophagus was very irritated but was still intact. The golf ball sized piece of bully stick was removed and it was confirmed that no other pieces were in her stomach.
Bella recovered well from anesthesia and was started on Carafate to protect the lining of the esophagus and Pepcid (an antacid). She was sent home a couple days later and continues to do well at home!
So what’s the big deal with an esophageal foreign body?
An esophageal foreign body refers anything that is lodged in the esophagus. This can be a serious, life threatening condition (due to the fact that the esophagus runs from the mouth through the chest into the stomach). When foreign material is stuck there it can cause breathing problems, place pressure on the heart and major arteries and if it perforates or tears it can cause air and bacteria to get into the chest cavity. This can cause respiratory distress and/or an infection in the chest.
Signs of this condition include drooling, gagging, vomiting and repeated attempts at swallowing. It is much more common in dogs than in cats. Some common items that can become lodged in your dog’s throat include bones, rawhide, bully sticks and dental treats.
This condition is typically diagnosed via radiographs. Most foreign bodies are radiopaque (show up white in radiographs). Your veterinarian may want to do a contrast study if the object is not easily visualized on plain film.
The ideal way to remove the object is by using minimally invasive equipment such as an endoscope to pass into the esophagus to pull the object out through the mouth. If the object is has sharp edges or is stuck then it must be removed surgically.
Most cases, about 93%, recover well after the object is removed. The most common complication post removal is esophageal stricture.
The best way to prevent this condition is to ensure that the chew toy or treat you are giving your pet is the correct size for your pet. Also pets should always be supervised when chewing a toy or treat. Small ends of bones or treats should be taken away to prevent your pet from swallowing them. If you have a pet that likes to tear pieces off of toys or treats and eat them they should be given items that are easily digestible or more durable to prevent ingestion.