Kane’s Near Miss: Gastric Foreign Bodies

Here is a recent email conversation with a client, regarding his Golden Labrador, Kane. The story may not be over, but we’ll keep you posted…….


Dear Matt,

At 4:44am this morning I awoke to the sound of Kane heaving and, as is the way we have both learnt to deal with vomiting in the middle of the night, I was up and air borne calling him to follow me away from the carpet to the tiles in the bathroom before I was even awake and he, all the while heaving quite dramatically, followed obediently.  A big tube shaped lump of gooey, (what I thought at the time must have been dinner,) substance was successfully expelled onto the tiles, I grabbed a nearby hand towel picked it up and wrapped it up and took it downstairs to the laundry for inspection in the morning when I was more fully awake.

Just now I came across the tea towel and I opened it up and had a little squeeze to see if there might have been a foreign object in with Kane’s dinner that caused him to vomit, such as a stray sock or the like, as has been found on occasion in the past (As far as I can recollect Kane only vomits when he has foreign objects in his gut, like teddy bear arms and legs etc).  So grabbing the tubular goo out of the tea towel I started to massage it feeling for foreign non- digestible objects holding the tubular goo under the tap with the water running gently over it.  To my surprise the entire tubular shaped lump of goo turned out to be a reasonably large portion of the cover of a synthetic cushion that was made in the shape of a dog paw print that Kane had been playing with and tearing apart with the other dog up in Brisbane weeks ago (picture of said piece is attached for your viewing pleasure).  The actual destroyed remains of the cushion were disposed of at least five or six  days before I came back and so it is quite likely that the piece of cushion cover has been in Kane’s gut for close to or even in excess of two weeks…

As you can imagine I thought Kane must have some serious intestinal problem linked with recent bowel issues etc and I had just spent the morning discussing the likelihood of there being a serious issue underlying all Kane’s gut dramas with friends.  Had I have thrown the lump out as might be considered advisable when confronted with large lumps of vomit in the middle of the night I would be left wondering what was wrong with Kane and have had no idea till the day I died.  Now I know and so the moral of the story is keep vomit until it is convenient to explore its contents if you want to know what is really wrong with your dog.  Btw the lump looked to others I showed like half digested chicken and rice as I had initially expected it to be so explore here means hands on play with….

Anyway what might be of interest to you is that Kane has a habit of vomiting up objects weeks after he has swallowed them.  The last thing he had was an arm or ear or wing from a soft toy that had been thrown out by cleaners who vacuum and sweep here for us, a month earlier than the vomit.  With that particular case he had little vomits that produced nothing for a couple of nights in a row before it finally came out.  I am amazed by how he can get food past the objects for weeks and then throw the object up later…he is like a snake.


PS: second picture is next to size 10 shoe for sense of scale.


Dear Ben,

fabulous story, made even better by the chirpy and optimistic tone, compared to the terrified and desperate I am usually presented with, when hearing such tales, often in the middle of the night.  I’m pleased you didn’t examine vomit contents until a respectable hour, and carefully laundered fur for the pics.

The stomach is a bit of a parking station, and is the last opportunity for such objects to do a U-turn. In young hungry dogs, stomach contents often resemble storm water drains, with leaves, twigs, cat poo, bottle tops, fishing lines, corn cobs, stones, dead animals etc, bobbing around in bile and macerated food.

Smooth, non-irritant objects like golf balls can be ejected months after ingestion, or go on to obstruct. Some objects that you’d never expect to pass, can be a non-event. Who’d imagine  a cat pass a pin!  The bowel is a truly amazing organ.

Even though gastric FBs usually cause vomiting, you gotta suspect this may have been involved in the pathogenesis of Kanes recent diarrhoea.

I should add, we are not completely out of the woods. Partial obstructions, which allow some food, water, and gas to pass, are often more of a slow burn presentation than a complete blockage, which will see a dog crash within days.

They are harder to see on X rays, as often radiolucent, and not  easy to palpable like a ball or stone.  Fabric and foam rubber are soft enough that they may not compromise perfusion and strangle bowel wall, and hence less likely to result in signs of peritonitis like pain or fever.

The linear structure of this fur is a lil’ ominous as peristaltic attempts to advance such objects can result in pleating of bowel like curtain on to rod. A baited fish hook on 2 meters of line is almost perfectly designed to kill a hungry carnivore.

So far, you and Kane are lucky. I would keep a very close eye on whats going in and coming out, and get a Barium contrast radiograph if things turn pear shaped. Intervene if you see him chomping on indigestible things.

We need to publish this on the blog……..

Dr Matt Allworth BSc(Vet) Hons, BVSc Hons

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4 Responses to “Kane’s Near Miss: Gastric Foreign Bodies”

  1. VOS says:

    GOOD DESCRIPTION thank-you.
    KANE has Teddy BEAR” PICA ” Suggest Haematology studies for Anaemia ? LOL

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Matt, the upbeat tone is probably sheer surprise at the size of the object :). Just out of curiosity should anything be added to Kane’s diet to help move any potential other bits through? Say like psyllium husk or the like. Assuming he remains non symptomatic that is.

  3. Liz says:

    I was wondering about psyllium husk, is it safe to give your dogs once in a while to clean out intestinal tract and how much.

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