First aid

How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object?

Evelyn Miranda
By Evelyn Miranda. Updated: July 18, 2023
How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object?

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Intriguing and playful, our dogs are known for their curious nature. While this endearing trait often brings joy, it can also lead to troublesome situations that pet owners need to be aware of. Animals, including dogs, rely heavily on their senses of smell and taste to explore the world around them. Unfortunately, this means that they may find objects that pique their interest or seem particularly appealing, and their natural instinct may drive them to put such objects in their mouths. However, the consequences of ingesting foreign bodies can quickly escalate into severe and even life-threatening situations for our beloved pets.

In the following AnimalWised article, we discuss when a dog typically expels a foreign body and other important factors to consider.

  1. What is a gastrointestinal foreign body in a dog?
  2. How much time does it take for a dog to expel a foreign body?
  3. What to do if your dog does not expel the foreign body?
  4. How can I tell if my dog has swallowed a foreign object?
  5. What happens when the dog expels a foreign body?
  6. How to prevent my dog from swallowing foreign objects

What is a gastrointestinal foreign body in a dog?

A gastrointestinal foreign body in a dog refers to any object or substance that is ingested and becomes lodged in the dog's digestive system.

It can include a wide range of items, such as toys, bones, rocks, socks, fabric, plastic, or any other objects that the dog swallows.

These foreign bodies can obstruct or block the normal flow of food, water, and waste through the gastrointestinal tract.

When a foreign body becomes trapped in the dog's digestive system, it can lead to various complications. The object may cause irritation, inflammation, or damage to the intestinal lining. In more severe cases, it can result in partial or complete blockage, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, constipation, or diarrhea. If left untreated, a gastrointestinal foreign body can result in serious health risks, including intestinal perforation, infection, or even death.

You might also be interested in this other article, where we explain what intestinal blockage in dogs is.

How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object? - What is a gastrointestinal foreign body in a dog?

How much time does it take for a dog to expel a foreign body?

The time it takes for a dog to expel a foreign body can vary depending on several factors, including the size and nature of the object, its location within the gastrointestinal tract, and the dog's individual health and digestive function. In some cases, a dog may be able to pass a small foreign object within a few days, while in other instances, it may require medical intervention.

If your dog has recently swallowed an object, typically within the past hour or two, it's likely still in the stomach. If the foreign body is small and not causing any immediate distress, there is a chance that your dog may naturally expel it through vomiting within 10 to 24 hours after ingestion. In other cases, the foreign object may pass through the digestive system and be expelled in the feces, which can take up to 48 hours.

What to do if your dog does not expel the foreign body?

If your dog does not expel the foreign body, it is crucial to take immediate action to ensure their health and safety. Reach out to your veterinarian as soon as possible and explain the situation. They will provide guidance and may ask you to bring your dog in for an examination.

Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds, to assess the location and severity of the obstruction.

In some cases, surgical removal of the foreign body may be necessary. If the object is causing a complete blockage or if it poses a significant risk to your dog's health, the veterinarian may recommend immediate surgery. Follow their advice and make arrangements for the procedure, if required.

It is important not to attempt any home removal of the foreign body, as this can potentially cause further harm or complications. Leave the removal process to the expertise of veterinary professionals.

Remember, time is of the essence when dealing with a potential obstruction caused by a foreign body. Prompt veterinary attention and proper medical intervention are vital to ensure the best possible outcome for your dog's health and well-being.

How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object? - What to do if your dog does not expel the foreign body?

How can I tell if my dog has swallowed a foreign object?

Identifying whether a dog has ingested a foreign body can be difficult, since there may not always be clear indications. However, it is essential to be aware of the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Vomiting: frequent or persistent vomiting, especially if it occurs shortly after eating or drinking, can be a sign of a foreign body obstruction.

  • Loss of appetite: a dog with an obstruction may show a decreased or complete loss of interest in food.

  • Abdominal pain: dogs may display signs of discomfort or pain in the abdominal area. They might exhibit restlessness, pacing, or a hunched posture.

  • Diarrhea or changes in stool: presence of diarrhea, bloody stool, or difficulty passing stool (constipation) can indicate an obstruction.

  • Lethargy: a dog with an obstruction may appear unusually tired, weak, or lacking energy.

  • Excessive drooling: excessive drooling or hypersalivation can be a sign of discomfort or nausea caused by an obstruction.

  • Swelling or bloating: the abdomen may become distended or bloated due to the blockage.

  • Behavioral changes: some dogs may become agitated, anxious, or show signs of discomfort when they have an obstruction.

  • Pawing at the mouth or throat: dogs may paw at their mouth or throat area, indicating discomfort or an attempt to dislodge the foreign object.

  • Coughing or choking: if the foreign body is lodged in the airway, the dog may exhibit coughing, gagging, or choking.

It's important to note that these symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the obstruction.

If you suspect your dog has ingested a foreign object or is showing any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly. The surrounding intestine can deteriorate rapidly, and the dog's condition may worsen within a few hours or gradually over time.

Persistent vomiting and severe abdominal pain may indicate intestinal perforation, which requires immediate veterinary attention. Without prompt care, the dog's condition can rapidly deteriorate, potentially leading to collapse or even death.

Do not miss this other article, where we explain what inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is in dogs.

How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object? - How can I tell if my dog has swallowed a foreign object?

What happens when the dog expels a foreign body?

In most cases, once the foreign body has been expelled, several things happen:

  • Relief of symptoms: the dog experiences a reduction in vomiting, abdominal pain, discomfort, and other signs of distress associated with the obstruction.

  • Normalization of bowel movements: the dog's bowel movements return to normal, with no signs of obstruction like blood or mucus in their stool.

  • Resumption of appetite: gradually, the dog's appetite improves, and they show interest in eating and drinking again.

  • Monitoring for complications: despite the foreign body being passed, it is crucial to monitor the dog closely for any lingering symptoms or potential complications. If there are concerns about their health or if symptoms persist, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian for further evaluation.

However, it is important to point out that, in some cases, the presence of the foreign object can cause inflammation and irritation, leading to persistent symptoms like nausea, loss of appetite, and a recovery period that may last several days. It is not uncommon for dogs to continue regurgitating food or fluids for a few days after the surgical removal.

During the recovery process, it is vital to prioritize rehydration and restore the dog's electrolyte balance. It is normal for the dog to have a decreased appetite and experience nausea in the days following the surgery. Additionally, it is common for dogs not to have a bowel movement for up to a week after the procedure.

Be sure to read this other article where we discuss why your dog is vomiting and has diarrhea.

How to prevent my dog from swallowing foreign objects

Prevention is the best way to spare your dog from the discomfort and pain associated with a foreign object lodged in their digestive system. By taking preventive measures, you can reduce the chances of your dog experiencing discomfort and the need for invasive procedures or surgeries.

While it may be impossible to eliminate all temptations, you can follow these recommendations to minimize the risk:

  • Choose safe toys for your dog that cannot be easily chewed into small pieces. Always supervise playtime and be cautious with other objects that may pose a swallowing hazard. You can find recommendations for suitable dog toys in this post.

  • Ensure that trash cans are securely closed with lids that your dog cannot easily open. Dispose of trash promptly, especially if it contains items that your dog might find enticing or potentially harmful.

  • Keep a close eye on your dog, especially when they are exploring new environments or playing with toys. Promptly intervene if you notice them chewing on or attempting to swallow inappropriate objects.

  • Use baby gates or pet barriers to restrict your dog's access to areas where they may encounter harmful objects. Block off rooms or areas that contain items that could be tempting or hazardous.

  • Avoid feeding your dog cooked bones or treats that can break into small fragments and be swallowed.

  • Store potentially dangerous items such as small toys, batteries, coins, sharp objects, household chemicals, and medications in secure cabinets or high shelves that your dog cannot access.

  • Regularly clean up clutter, small objects, and debris that can pose a risk to your dog. This includes keeping floors clear of small items that they might be tempted to swallow.

  • Engage your dog in regular exercise, playtime, and interactive toys to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. This can reduce their inclination to engage in destructive chewing or seeking out foreign objects. Check out this other article where we explain which toys are actually not recommended for dogs.

Remember, each dog is unique, and some may have a stronger inclination to swallow objects than others. By being vigilant and proactive, you can significantly reduce the risk of your dog swallowing a foreign body and help keep them safe. If you have any concerns or uncertainties, consult your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object?, we recommend you visit our First aid category.

  • Demars, C., Boland, L., & Minier, K. (2023). Surgical removal of intestinal foreign bodies using a laparotomy‚Äźassisted endoscopic approach in dogs and cats and comparison with enterotomy. Journal of Small Animal Practice , 64 (1), 43-50.
  • Bruyette, D. (2020). Clinical small animal internal medicine.
  • Burton, AG, Talbot, CT, & Kent, MS (2017). Risk factors for death in dogs treated for esophageal foreign body obstruction: a retrospective cohort study of 222 cases (1998–2017). Journal of veterinary internal medicine , 31 (6), 1686-1690.
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How Long Will It Take a Dog to Pass a Foreign Object?