Eating non-food items is a big problem in pets. It happens so often that I am amazed at how seldom I have to do surgery to remedy the situation. Frequently the animal vomits up the item. Sometimes it passes all the way through.
In September, we were all set to do surgery for an intestinal blockage on a young Saint Bernard. She had eaten very little food for the past 3 weeks, and had lost 25 percent of her body weight. I could feel a mass in her abdomen. The night before her operation, she passed a pair of underpants she had eaten weeks earlier. Her recovery was uneventful after that.
The most dangerous are items that lodge in mid-intestine, as they are more likely to perforate the bowel, and that is bad news.
Items that sit in the stomach can cause intermittent problems depending on where they lodge. That's what happened to this little gal (pictured in recovery, post-op). She had been having problems for 5 days. At night, she vomited and felt terrible. The next morning, she seemed fine, ate, drank, kept it down.
On Friday evening, she vomited up some pieces of plastic flower she had consumed at some unknown time. "She just chews on everything!" I couldn't help thinking that maybe we need to "pick up everything off the floor".
Taking an X-ray to look for foreign objects is usually unrewarding, as most of them are not dense enough to be seen. This is certainly true for plastic. However, sometimes you can see a flat piece of plastic if you catch it edge-on. This makes it very thick, as far as the X-ray is concerned, and that's what we see here. At left is a close-up view of the top picture. There is a white line that is lying flat over the exit valve from the stomach, like a closed door. Stuff can't pass through, so the dog vomits and feels bad.
The next morning, she feels fine. The new X-ray (on the right) now shows the white line in a different position. The foreign object has moved, and the "door is open". We can't tell what the object is, but we know something is in there.
Unfortunately, the plastic leaf that was the "door" had become embedded in the exit, and we could not grasp it through the scope. She wound up having to have surgery after all.