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

Foreign objects in the mouth include bone splinters, slivers of wood, sewing needles and pins, porcupine quills, fish hooks, and plant awns. Sharp objects can penetrate the lips, gums, and tongue. Other objects can get caught between the teeth or wedged across the roof of the mouth. Pieces of string can become wrapped around the teeth and tongue.

A common place for a penetrating foreign body is beneath the tongue. On lifting the tongue, you may see a grapelike swelling or a draining tract. This means the foreign body has been present for some time.

In areas where cockle and sand burrs are prevalent, many small spines can become embedded in the tongue and gums as the dog grooms burrs from her coat and feet.

The signs of a foreign body are pawing at the mouth, rubbing the mouth along the floor, drooling, gagging, licking the lips repeatedly, and holding the mouth open. When a foreign object has been present for a day or longer, the principal signs may be lethargy, bad breath, and refusal to eat.

Treatment: Obtain a good light source and gently examine your dog’s mouth, as described earlier in this chapter. A good look may reveal the cause. It is possible to directly remove some foreign bodies. Others will require a general anesthetic, which means a trip to the veterinarian.

A thread attached to a needle should not be pulled out, because it can be used to locate the needle.

Foreign bodies present for a day or longer are difficult to remove and may cause infection. They must be removed, and the dog evaluated, by a veterinarian. After removal, the dog is placed on an antibiotic for one week.

   To remove a fish hook from the lip, if the barb is visible, cut the shank next to the barb with wire cutters and remove the hook in two pieces. If the barb is embedded in the lip, determine which direction the barb is pointed and push the hook through until the barb is free. Do not try to pull the barbed end back through the tissue! Then cut the hook and remove it. Treat the puncture wound as described in Wounds.

Do not attempt to remove a fish hook embedded in the mouth or one that has been swallowed with the line attached. Take your dog to the veterinarian at once.

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