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The Dangers of Esophageal Foreign Bodies in Dogs

Posted January 17, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Do you have a small dog that likes to wolf down treats or rawhides really quickly? If so, this blog is a must read! 

Your dog’s throat
The esophagus is a thin sheet of muscle located within the thorax that connects the mouth with the stomach and aids in pushing food and water down into the stomach. Once in a while, if a dog (or rarely, a cat) swallows something too large – or too sharp – for it to pass out of the esophagus, it can become an esophageal foreign body. Esophageal foreign bodies typically get stuck in two locations in the esophagus: near the base of the heart or in the back (i.e., caudal) part near the diaphragm. 

What might cause an esophageal foreign body in my dogs throat?

Common causes for esophageal foreign bodies include the following treats or objects:

  • Rawhides
  • Bones or bone fragments
  • Fishing hooks
  • Needles (especially stuck on a string)

Symptoms of an esophageal foreign body
Esophageal foreign bodies are a life-threatening type of obstruction and immediate veterinary attention is necessary. It’s important that you know what symptoms to look for in your pet when he is affected by an esophageal foreign body. The symptoms can be initially very exaggerated but then “go away” as your pet gets used to the feeling of something stuck in his throat. However, even though the clinical signs seem to resolve, the esophageal foreign body is actually causing severe silent injury to the tissues.

Symptoms of an esophageal foreign body include the following:

  • Exaggerated swallowing motions
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Pawing at the neck
  • Inappetance/anorexia
  • Acute frantic agitation
  • Gagging
  • Coughing

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.