Foreign body/object (corpus alienum, abbreviated corp. Al.) In the stomach or intestine is the veterinary expression for when a cat has swallowed an unsuitable object. It is common for cats to play with wires, strings, earplugs, or other objects and this can cause great inconvenience and cause life-threatening conditions.
If the object that the cat has ingested passes out to the intestine and gets stuck, the passage becomes more difficult. The condition then becomes acute due to the fact that the intestinal blood supply is often affected by the stuck object. If the object does not pass normally or is operated on, it can lead to the intestinal wall breaking. The object then, together with the intestinal contents, enters the abdomen, which can cause peritonitis. In that situation, the cat’s general condition can quickly deteriorate and the condition becomes life-threatening.
The symptoms of foreign objects in the stomach or intestines vary greatly depending on where the object is stuck. Frequent vomiting, often after the cat has eaten or drunk, is common. Vomiting can also occur sporadically for an extended period of time if the item remains in the stomach. Due to the intestinal obstruction, the cat usually stops eating and drinking, but often continues to vomit. However, it happens that cats with foreign objects in the gastrointestinal tract do not vomit, which complicates the diagnosis.
In case of inappropriate objects in the stomach or intestine, the general condition can deteriorate gradually or very quickly. Acute deterioration can be due to dehydration, but also due to damage and pain in the intestinal mucosa, which is caused by pressure from the object.
Vomiting can also be a symptom of other diseases such as gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), or diseases of other organ systems such as the liver, kidneys or pancreas.
What Can You Do Yourself?
There is no safe way to try to induce vomiting in a cat that has eaten anything inappropriate.
When Should a Veterinarian Be Consulted?
If it has been observed that the cat has eaten a foreign object, a veterinarian should be consulted to try to induce vomiting with the help of medication. This should be done as soon as possible after ingestion. If the cat shows an affected general condition or has frequent vomiting, a veterinarian should always be consulted.
The veterinarian performs a thorough clinical examination that includes palpating, that is, feeling the stomach. If an unsuitable object is suspected in the stomach or intestine, the examination is usually supplemented with an X-ray or ultrasound. Far from all foreign objects can be seen on X-rays or ultrasounds. Sometimes the examination is also supplemented with a contrast passage X-ray.
To perform a contrast passage X-ray, the cat is fed with an X-ray-tight fluid that often stops or is absorbed by the unsuitable object. Follow-up X-rays are taken every two hours to locate where the object is stuck.
Inappropriate items in the stomach or intestines can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes the symptoms may determine treatment.
Treatment By a Veterinarian
If the inappropriate object has been ingested in the next few hours, it can sometimes be remedied by the veterinarian giving a preparation that causes vomiting. The pet owner should never try to induce vomiting himself.
When the general condition is affected, and if the cat vomits repeatedly, the nutrient solution is usually given intravenously to compensate for fluid loss. Because inappropriate objects in the stomach and intestines often cause pain, pain relief is also usually part of the treatment.
If an inappropriate object has been found in the stomach, and attempts at vomiting have been unsuccessful or not considered appropriate, the object may be removed via an endoscope. This means that the stomach is inspected using a long, flexible instrument with a camera at the front. The object can often be removed from the stomach with the help of various aids.
If the veterinarian suspects that an inappropriate object is stuck in the intestine, surgery is often the preferred treatment. The intestine is opened and the object is removed. Sometimes the intestine needs to be opened in several places and the operation can then become more complicated. If the object is stuck in or near the colon, it can usually be massaged out through the anal opening.
Regardless of which method the veterinarian chooses to use, the procedure takes place under general anesthesia. The prognosis for an operation where a foreign body has been removed is relatively good, provided that the foreign body has not been allowed to sit for too long and damage the intestine. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is very high (80-90%) if the intestinal contents have leaked into the abdomen through the damaged intestine. For this reason, it is not uncommon for the veterinarian to recommend a diagnostic abdominal opening if a foreign body is suspected in the intestine.
After bowel surgery, the cat usually needs to stay for a couple of days for further treatment with intravenous fluids, pain relief, and small amounts of gentle food. The cat usually stays until the diet food works without complications and the general condition is improved.
After surgery, it is recommended that the cat wears a collar for about 10-14 days to prevent it from licking the wound. The wound should be checked daily, and if bleeding, wound fluid, redness, swelling or another change is seen, the veterinarian should be contacted. Dietary foods are usually given in the first few days in small portions several times a day. The amount of food is gradually increased until the cat’s regular food is phased in.
Stitches are usually removed after 10-12 days. However, it is not uncommon for the abdominal wound to be sewn with resorbable thread that does not need to be removed but disappears on its own after about 2-3 weeks. Specific advice for the individual is given in connection with going home from the vet.
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