Dogs Eat the Darnedest Things: All About Intestinal Obstructions

Other signs of a potential obstruction include lack of appetite, diarrhea and that condition we veterinarians like to call ADR — “ain’t doin’ right.” We use that when an animal seems depressed, lethargic or out of sorts for no particular reason. Gagging, coughing and pawing at the mouth or neck can signal that something is stuck in the esophagus. If your dog has a habit of eating things he shouldn’t and shows any of these signs, it’s a good idea to take him to the veterinarian to check for an obstruction.


Depending on the physical exam, X-rays and the type of object most likely swallowed, your veterinarian may recommend a wait-and-see approach for a day or two, further diagnostic testing to gain more information or immediate surgery to remove whatever your dog has consumed.

Dogs at Risk

I think it’s safe to say that Labrador Retrievers take the cake when it comes to downing foreign objects. Bernese Mountain Dogs and Bloodhounds have a reputation, too. Interestingly, West Highland White Terriers and other terrier breeds seem to be prone to esophageal obstructions. But of course, any dog can swallow something he shouldn’t and suffer an obstruction.


Youth is another common denominator. Young dogs may be more likely to chew on and swallow foreign objects. Sometimes wisdom comes with age, and dogs learn not to do that, but plenty of dogs continue the behavior throughout life. If you have a repeat offender, you will need to be diligent about keeping items he might want to swallow out of reach. This is a situation where it's definitely better to be safe than sorry.

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