Symptoms of an Object in a Dog's Esophagus

Immediate vet attention can save your dog's life.
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Many dogs attempt to chew or eat nonfood items that have the potential to get caught in their esophagus and result in choking. While dog-proofing your home and yard and keeping trash, small toys and other small items away from your pup is wise, it’s also important to know the signs of esophageal blockage. Fast treatment is essential to ensuring your dog’s health and recovery.

Canine Choking Hazards

If your pup likes to dig through your garbage, steal “people food” or play keep-away with small household items, he’s potentially at risk for esophageal blockage. Small dogs with narrow throats are more susceptible to choking hazards and should be watched carefully. Rawhide bones that are chewed down to nubs, the squeaker inside small dog toys, plastic bottle caps, rubber bands and even foods such as grapes all present an esophageal blockage hazard. Even partial blockage requires immediate attention and treatment.

Esophageal Blockage Symptoms

If your dog swallows something too large to fit down his throat, or if an item becomes lodged in his esophagus, he may suddenly retch, cough, heave, drool or try to regurgitate whatever he ingested. You may see him repeatedly attempt to swallow to dislodge whatever is stuck. If something is partially blocking the esophagus, the symptoms might not be immediately obvious. Your dog may be listless or refuse to eat, even to a point that weight loss occurs.

Complications of Esophageal Blockage

All blockage requires immediate medical treatment, as some forms of blockage are more severe than others. A small ball or toy can often be retrieved safely by a vet using an endoscope with tweezers. However, items such as bone shards or fishhooks, which have the potential to tear the esophagus, may require surgery to remove and follow-up antibiotic treatment to prevent infection. If you suspect blockage, seek a vet’s advice right away.

Other Concerns

Some signs of esophageal blockage can mimic other potentially serious medical conditions and should be evaluated by a vet. According to the Merck Manual for Pet Health, a honking cough can be a sign of tracheal collapse and a persistent cough can be an indication of congestive heart failure. Other possible conditions with the same symptoms include megaesophagus, a congenital abnormal dilation disorder, narrowing of the esophagus due to inflammation, or esophageal diverticulitis, in which pouches in the esophagus trap food and cause irritation or ulceration. Regurgitation also can signal a number of medical disorders and conditions and should be addressed as soon as noticed.