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Foreign Objects in a Dog's Mouth, Nose, or Throat

Foreign Body in the Nose

Foreign bodies that may work their way into the nasal cavity include blades of grass, grass seeds, awns, and bone and wood splinters. The principal sign is a sudden bout of violent sneezing, accompanied by pawing at the nose, and occasionally, bleeding from one nostril. The sneezing is first continuous and later intermittent. When a foreign body has been present for hours or days, there is a thick discharge (often bloody) from the involved nostril.

Treatment: A foreign body may be visible close to the opening of the nostril, in which case it can be removed with tweezers. In most cases it will be located farther back. If the foreign body is not removed in a short time, it tends to migrate even deeper into the nasal cavity. Do not poke blindly in your dog’s nose, as this causes further injury. Take your dog to the veterinarian. Removal of most foreign bodies requires heavy sedation or general anesthesia.

After the foreign body has been removed, your veterinarian may prescribe an oral antibiotic to treat any secondary bacterial infection.

Foreign Body in the Esophagus

Foreign bodies in the esophagus are common. Bones and bone splinters are seen most often. Other objects that obstruct a dog’s esophagus include string, fishhooks, needles, wood splinters, and small toys. Suspect a foreign body in the esophagus when a dog suddenly begins to gag, retch, drool, and regurgitate. A history of regurgitation and difficulty swallowing for several days or longer suggests a partial obstruction.

Sharp foreign bodies are particularly dangerous, because they can perforate the esophagus. A dog with a perforated esophagus exhibits fever, cough, rapid breathing, difficulty swallowing, and a rigid stance.

The diagnosis can usually be made by taking X-rays of the neck and chest. Ingesting a contrast material such as Gastrografin, followed by an X-ray of the esophagus, may be required.

Treatment: An esophageal foreign body is an emergency. Take your dog to a veterinarian at once.

Many foreign bodies can be removed by gastroscopy. The dog is given a general anesthetic, after which an endoscope is passed through the mouth and into the esophagus. The object is located visually and removed with a grasping instrument. If the object cannot be withdrawn, it can often be pushed down into the stomach and removed surgically from the abdomen. Foreign bodies that cannot be dislodged using the endoscope require open esophageal surgery. The same is true for esophageal perforations.

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