Just like tinsel, the ribbons and bows that adorn wrapped gifts are often very enticing for cats. Something about them just seems to trigger a cat’s ‘inner hunter’. Sadly though, a common result of this ‘hunt’ is an intestinal obstruction that can sicken or kill your cat and requires expensive surgery to remove.
The long, strand-like nature of ribbons and bows makes them common linear foreign bodies in cats around this time of the year. Linear foreign bodies cause a particular type of digestive tract obstruction in pets that are curious, mischievous, and unfortunate enough to eat them. The details of linear foreign body obstruction were outlined in the post I wrote about tinsel on day 1 of this blog series, and you are referred to that post (click here) for the additional specifics that all pet owners should be aware of about this type of expensive and potentially fatal intestinal obstruction.
Pets with an obstructive foreign body in their digestive tract, linear or otherwise, will typically refuse food, have decreased energy, be vomiting, and may also have diarrhea, or exhibit signs of abdominal pain (such as growling, vocalizing, or even biting when their abdomen is touched or you attempt to pick them up). Pets exhibiting these signs, in any combination, should be brought for veterinary evaluation. Whether or not their signs are indicative of the need for a holiday or middle of the night emergency room visit is very much dependent on how long they’ve been occurring, how severe they are, and a variety of other factors. However, it truly is always better to be safe than sorry and have them evaluated sooner rather than later. It often results in a better outcome and typically a lower overall bill too.
In some cases of linear foreign body obstruction, you may either notice the ribbon or string protruding from your pet’s rectum, or you may notice them incessantly pawing at their mouth. Alternatively, you may notice pieces of linear material within their stools or vomit, or you may notice that ribbon or string is missing from around the house. When the clinical signs mentioned in the paragraph above are combined with the visualizations and realizations mentioned here, the likelihood of a linear foreign body obstruction is high and emergency veterinary evaluation is clearly warranted.
Its vitally important that you do not pull on any string or ribbon that is protruding from your pet’s rectum. Doing so can cause further damage to your pet’s digestive tract, even including perforation of the bowel with the result of bacteria and intestinal contents leaking into the abdominal cavity causing a painful and life-threatening inflammation and infection within the abdominal cavity called septic peritonitis. If you see linear material protruding from your pet’s rectum the best thing you can do is to get them immediately to a veterinarian. You may be able to cut the protruding end of the material with scissors, but be very careful not to cut your pet’s anus or tail, and be sure to leave a few inches still protruding to facilitate diagnosis by your veterinarian.
Treatment for true linear foreign body obstruction should always involve surgery for removal of the offending object and to evaluate the gut for damage that could necessitate the removal of a section of their intestine. The typical costs for such care will depend on your geographical location, your pet’s size, the degree of their debilitation prior to surgery, and type of hospital and qualifications of the doctor and nursing staff where the procedure and aftercare are done. Generally speaking though, its safe to say that diagnostics, stabilization, surgery, and aftercare/hospitalization for cases of linear foreign body obstruction will set you back between $1500-3,000+. If the bowel has perforated and inflammatory fluid and bacteria have spilled into your pet’s abdominal cavity, the costs associated with care of their linear foreign body obstruction and septic peritonitis will likely be more in the $4,000-6,000+ range. In these cases, the risks associated with anesthesia/surgery, though necessary, are greater too.
We’re 3/4 of the way through this Christmas pet safety blog series… only 3 more days to go! They’ll be good ones too, a bit more obscure as well. Thanks for following along. I hope you’re sharing what you’re learning with your friends, family, and loved ones. Have a safe, wonderful, and joyous holiday. And don’t forget, when it comes to your pet’s health and safety, its always best to…
Be aware, be prepared… be Preventive!™
Here’s a recap of The 12 Pet Hazards of Christmas so far…
Day 8: Chocolate
Day 6: Ornaments
Day 5: Lilies
Day 4: Batteries
Day 3: Mistletoe
Day 2: Fruitcake
Day 1: Tinsel
Jason Nicholas, BVetMed(Hons)
The Preventive Vet™
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