by Dr. Bonnie Markoff   We often think of dogs getting into trouble eating things they shouldn’t, but what about cats? Aren’t they too fastidious to swallow things that can get stuck on the way out? Not these two!

Pfeiffer belongs to one of our team members. She’s not even 2 years old and started vomiting suddenly one day. X-rays looked normal so she was given some basic outpatient anti-nausea treatment. The next day she was still vomiting. She seemed alert and happy and labwork was normal, so we did a barium study. That means we gave Pfeiffer some of that chalky barium many of you have had to swallow for x-ray studies, and then took a series of x-rays over time.

The barium shows up as bright white on the x-rays.  Pfeiffer’s barium moved from the stomach (big white area on the x-ray) and out the intestines, and then just stopped. When we saw it could go no further, we knew something was stuck and obstructing movement. We took her to surgery where we removed part of a fabric wand toy! A little pain control and a few days later, she was back to her mischievous self!

Recently we saw Merlin. His owners knew that he had eaten some foam a few weeks earlier. He had an episode of vomiting previously, but x-rays were normal and he got over it. The day before we saw Merlin, he was at the emergency clinic for vomiting, and again his x-rays were normal. Luckily our Dr. Barber was suspicious about that foam. 

She did a barium study and found the obstruction! Dr. Markoff did surgery to remove it that same day – and sure enough, it was that piece of foam! It had apparently sat in the stomach for several weeks where it only intermittently caused problems. Once it passed into the smaller intestines, it got stuck and caused a complete obstruction of the GI tract. Luckily, Merlin is doing great today!

Any pet can eat things that they shouldn’t. Many of these just pass through on their own, but some get stuck along the way. The gastrointestinal tract is always moving, trying to push things along (& eventually out). If movement is impaired, the body just pushes harder. If these obstructions are not resolved it can lead to intestinal tissue death and rupture of the intestines, which is usually a fatal situation.

Vomiting and diarrhea in an otherwise happy pet can seem like a minor situation, and thankfully it often is. If either vomiting or diarrhea go on for more than a few days, or if your pet is not eating or acting lethargic at the same time as vomiting or diarrhea, you need to see your veterinarian ASAP. Time can be of the essence!