When pets swallow strange objects, the resulting effects can be fatal. Known as “foreign bodies” in veterinary circles, these inedible objects can cause gastrointestinal obstructions or perforate the digestive tract if consumed by pets.
The ASPCA medical team performs surgeries to extract foreign bodies from the stomachs and intestines of canines and felines on an almost daily basis, and one recent patient was a one-year-old pit bull named Frost.
On a recent fall evening, Frost’s owner, Odin Rodriguez, took him for a walk around their Staten Island neighborhood when he noticed something in the dog’s mouth. Odin pulled it out, thinking he had removed it in its entirety, but Frost vomited in the middle of the night. Odin’s wife, Cassandra, says, “The next day there was a bad odor coming from his mouth, so we knew he must have ingested something, and it was still there.”
A solid 83 lbs., Frost is normally spunky and playful. “But he was so lethargic,” adds Cassandra. “We knew something was wrong.”
At a nearby clinic, x-rays revealed a foreign object in Frost’s intestinal tract. The Rodriguezes were referred to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where Frost underwent an ultrasound that confirmed the obstruction: a corn cob. Frost underwent a two-hour surgery to remove the dangerous cob.
Veterinarians at the ASPCA Animal Hospital say that corn cobs are at the top of the list of foreign bodies consumed by dogs, along with pieces of rubber, pillows, cloth, carpet, and even coins. Stringy items, such as thread, yarn, dental floss and hair bands are more commonly swallowed by cats. In 2013, veterinarians at the ASPCA performed 125 surgeries—like Frost’s—to remove foreign bodies from dogs and cats. Surgeries this year already number 120 and will likely surpass 2013 numbers.
“Dogs especially, but also cats often don’t distinguish between what is tasty and what will actually fit in to their gastrointestinal tracts,” says ASPCA veterinarian Dr. Janice Fenichel, who diagnosed Frost’s condition.
Surgeries like the one Frost underwent can cost thousands of dollars in diagnostic, anesthesia, and fees, so the ASPCA urges pet-parents to protect their pets. During the upcoming holiday season, “dog-“ or “cat-proof” your home to keep potentially damaging objects out of reach. Keep a close eye on what your pet finds appetizing, and cover or empty wastebaskets.
As for Frost, Cassandra says, “he’s back to his old self, doing beautifully,” and keeping busy with the couple’s four children, ages three to 12.
Corn cobs, like this one, can lead to gastrointestinal distress in pets when swallowed.