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Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

What Is Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs?

Esophageal Foreign Bodies is a multi-factorial condition causing partial or complete blockage of the esophagus that may also perturb enteric neuromuscular coordination.

The main cause for esophageal obstruction is when a dog eats a non-food foreign object and it cannot pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Foreign objects can be digestible things such as treats (rawhide, dental chews), slowly digested foods (bones), and non-digestible things (hairballs, socks, toys, fishhooks). These items can become lodged inside the esophagus, stomach, under the tongue, or in other parts of the intestinal tract. Sometimes, foreign bodies can get lodged or stuck in several locations in the esophagus if they are composed of linear things such as strings, fabric, or carpet.

Other than foreign bodies, esophageal cancers could be another reason for esophageal obstruction. This can happen anywhere in the esophageal tube. The continuing inflammation damages the esophagus, and an allergic-type response occurs. This inflammation impairs the transportation process and absorption of nutrients which in turn leads to other health problems

Sometimes owners immediately find out that their pet has ingested something inappropriate, such as needles, and try to find veterinary care without delay. More often than not, dogs are presented very late after EFB ingestion, sometimes even many days after ingestion, when they show evidence of compromise or distress.

Symptoms Of Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

  • Hacking sounds to try to clear the throat
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Regurgitating food or water
  • Excessive drooling
  • Refusing to eat
  • Hyporexia to anorexia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pleural effusion
  • Subcutaneous edema
  • Ascites
  • Muscle twitching

Treatment Options For Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

Endoscopy: Most of the esophageal foreign bodies can be removed with an endoscope. Vets will insert a long fiber optic tube through the mouth providing the vet to look, grab and pull the object through the grabbing instrument in the endoscope.

If the foreign material travels past the esophagus, then only abdominal surgery can get rid of it and endoscopy cannot be a suitable treatment choice.

Antibiotics: Oxytetracycline, Metronidazole, or tylosin

Anti-inflammatory medications: Cyclosporine (Atopica), Cortisone (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone), Azathioprine, leflunomide, and mycophenolate mofetil.

Home Remedies For Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

  • When you believe that your pet has swallowed a foreign object, contact the vet immediately.
  • When dietary change gets a good response, that particular diet can be maintained for some time as long as it is balanced.
  • Exclusion diet: exclusion of ingredients that a dog has earlier encountered.
  • Consult your veterinarian at once if you find any odd coughs or breathing sounds.

How To Prevent Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs?

  • Dogs have only a toddler’s level of understanding and some dogs’ proclivity to consume foreign objects will be stronger.
  • Always keep an eye on your dog’s chewing habits. Inspect all chew toys and stuffed animals that you give your dogs.
  • Check the damage happening to toys and keep small sharp objects out of the pet’s reach.
  • It is good to get properly sized chew toys for all pets in your home.
  • Throw away any smaller remnants or sharp objects such as needles or strings out of reach of your dogs.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Esophageal Foreign Bodies

There is no breed restriction.

Portuguese Warren Hound, Yorkshire Terrier, Miniature Poodle, West Highland White Terrier

Causes And Diagnosis For Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

1. Causes:

  • Bones
  • Pet toys
  • Treats (rawhide, dental chews)
  • Paper, sticks, wicker
  • Food wrappers, tissues
  • Fish hook and needles
  • String, yarn, and other craft supplies

2. Mortality:

A dog with complete esophageal blockage or obstruction could die within 2 - 5 days when rapid medical intervention is not provided. If it is not discovered in the early stages, then the obstruction will be surely fatal.

3. Diagnosis:

  • Abdominal radiograph
  • Gastrointestinal transit studies
  • Computerized tomography
  • Barium small bowel series

4. Prognosis:

In most cases, esophageal foreign bodies are manageable with the removal of the obstruction. Complete recovery is possible and it is typically able to continue with daily activities.

When To See A Vet For Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs?

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Hacking sounds to try to clear the throat
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Regurgitating food or water

Food Suggestions For Esophageal Foreign Bodies In Dogs

  1. Whole, minimally-processed foods or Nutrient-dense and biologically suitable foods that are free of preservatives and chemicals
  2. Switch temporarily to a Bland Diet- with three parts plain cooked rice +1part boiled lean hamburger
  3. 3 parts rice or cooked macaroni + One-part boiled egg or cottage cheese with easily digestible lean cuts of meat
  4. For sensitive stomach dogs: low amounts of fat, add probiotics and plenty of fiber ingredients (whole grain bread, cereal, Beet Pulp, etc)
  5. Probiotics (yogurt, fermented vegetables, kefir with live cultures, kimchi)


Control of access to swallowable objects is the best way to avoid ingestion of esophageal foreign bodies. Train your dogs to stay away from the non- swallowable things. Early detection and appropriate treatment offer the most favorable prognosis.

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