Foreign Body Removal

I've had a few people ask for more details about Kosmo and Lola's surgeries. If you don't care about dogs, feel free to skip over this post. But since we've been through this twice now, I figured it must be fairly common with Boston Terriers (either that, or we are the worst puppy parents ever!) and I thought it may help some fellow BT owners out! We were MUCH more informed the 2nd time around and I think if we had known some of this the first time, it could have saved Kosmo some misery, some of his small intestine, and us some money!

 So I'll start with the basics of what happened: They both got a toy (foreign body) of some sort stuck in their GI tract that had to be removed surgically.


Boston Terriers LOVE to chew! I don't know if surgery is common with them at all, but so far we are 2 for 2 (lucky us!) Before Kosmo's surgery, our's had all sorts of toys... cloth toys with squeakers, balls, ropes, chewy bones, you name it. After Kosmo had surgery and we discovered that what was stuck was some type of cloth (they couldn't tell exactly because it had been in there so long), we got rid of all of their cloth toys minus a few ropes for them to play tug with. Once the ropes became frayed at all, I'd throw them away. Basically all they had to play with after the surgery were Nylabones, a various selection of other rubber chew toys, balls to play fetch with, and like I said a few ropes.

After this has now happened with Lola I had no idea what we did wrong! The surgeon saved the foreign body for us and we were able to figure out that part of it was a toy from my mom's house (she had not filtered her toys down to nothing like we had!) and part of it was big plastic chunks of something... who knows what. I thought they kind of looked like parts of Nylabones, and Josh thought it was possibly parts of a dead animal... like I said, who knows?! But now of course I'm paranoid so I am watching those Nylabones like a hawk!

I started doing some research and found several articles that does warn of the danger of Nylabones and ingesting pieces larger than a grain of rice. I do not know for sure that that's what Lola ate, but I also don't know for sure that it isn't. And I also know that my dogs have swallowed pieces of toys much larger than a grain of rice, so now I'm paranoid ;)

Specifics of what happened to Kosmo: You can read the whole story here.

Basically, he had been sick (throwing up, not eating, not drinking, not acting like himself) for 2.5 days before we took him to the vet. No we're not evil, it's just that Bostons notoriously have sensitive tummies, so them throwing up is not super un-common. But eventually you could tell he just wasn't acting right.

Once we took him in, they did blood work and x-rays. These didn't show anything abnormal other than his fluid levels were low (dehydrated from throwing up), so they admitted him to put him on IV fluids. The vet's first suspicions were not a foreign body. They originally thought he had HGE or parvo, two different dog "diseases" you could say. But once he had been hospitalized for 3 days without getting better, they sent us on to a specialist.

The specialist ran the same tests - blood work and x-rays. Their plan was to continue IV fluids to stabilize him for a possible endoscopy procedure a couple days later to hopefully see what was going on inside. However that same day, they did another x-ray which showed his poor little intestines looked so bunched up that they recommended emergency surgery.

It was 6 days after Kosmo had originally gotten sick before he had his surgery. By the time they opened him up, the foreign body (cloth toy) had perforated his small intestine which meant his abdomen had become septic (the contents of his stomach were leaking out into his bloodstream). NOT GOOD. It also  meant that his small intestine was so damaged they couldn't save most of it and had to remove almost all of it.

The surgeon only gave Kosmo a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery itself, and even after that he still only had a 50/50 chance of making it. Obviously you know how this story ends - he made a full recovery and besides the fact that he's skinnier now, you wouldn't know what all he's been through! We do have to give him a B12 injection every week because his body no longer produces it, but other than that he has no major issues!

  Specifics of what happened to Lola:

Her story is basically the same (you can read more here), however when she got sick I knew right away that something wasn't right. It just seemed too familiar. We only let her go for a day and after that I knew I had to take her in (even if I was over-reacting, I just wanted to be sure). I even totally by-passed our regular vet and took her straight to the Animal Hospital.

They ran the same tests - blood work and x-rays. They suggested the same possibilities of parvo or another doggy disease, but given her age and vaccine history said it was un-likely (I knew it wasn't that anyway.. I don't know why they focused so much on that with Kosmo :( again, another thing I wish we'd known...) so the plan for her was to get her levels back up with IV's and if nothing changed then an endoscopy or exploratory surgery the following day.

The deciding factor to go ahead with surgery was that she threw up again at the vet. When she threw up they ran another x-ray to see if anything had changed. When it hadn't that told them two things: it was good, because nothing got worse; but bad, because nothing was moving through.

I don't know if the fact that we had been through this before helped them be more quick with the decision to do surgery or what, but I'm glad we did it when we did. As I said before, her's ended up being fairly more complicated than we originally thought, although still nothing close to Kosmo's. She got to keep all of her small intestine and she has no "special needs" she has to deal with now like he does.

Things you should know about foreign bodies being stuck in a dog's intestines and signs to look for:

 - The first sign you will see as an owner is vomiting and lethargy. So far the biggest difference I've noticed between when something is just upsetting their tummy (AKA nothing to worry about) and when it's been something major is that they don't eat and when they drink water they almost immediately throw up. I think that's a sign of a blockage in there

- if they are immediately throwing up water, I'd rush them to the vet and push your vet to do the surgery sooner than later. - When you bring a dog to the vet for vomiting, x-rays and blood work will be the first tests they do. However, typically they can not diagnose a foreign body this way simply because most things dogs eat won't show up on the x-rays. If they ate something metal then yes it will, but in both of our cases it didn't. Cloth can blend in with organs or hide behind ribs. Sneaky.

 - I think they try to avoid doing surgery if they at all can. Which I understand... it's expensive and scary. Not everyone can afford it. I get that they want it to be a last resort after they've exhausted all other options. Because yeah, if Kosmo did just have Parvo and they immediately opened him up it would have been a wasted surgery... a waste of money and unnecessary pain for him to have to go through.

However, had we done the surgery sooner... I firmly believe that Kosmo would still have his small intestine and we may not have had to go to the specialty hospital (which was way more expensive... we didn't have to go there with Lola). It would have saved us a lot of money... on what turned out to be unnecessary tests that they did on him, extra nights he spent at the vet, having to go to the specialty hospital, having to have emergency surgery (extra fees involved when they have to call a special doctor in), and the expense we now have of the B12 (although it's not a lot, we still have to do it for the rest of his life).

The cost:

- As you can imagine, surgeries are not exactly cheap. If your dog has to have surgery, I would expect to spend at least around $1,000 depending on how complicated it is, how long they have to be in the hospital, etc.  Kosmo's was VERY expensive, and I know not everyone is in a position to spend that much money... however,  it breaks my heart to think about the fact that he could possibly not be here with us simply because we couldn't/wouldn't afford it.  :( After Kosmo's vet bill, we were both expecting Lola's to be quite a bit as well but when we got it, it was MUCH cheaper than we both were guessing. I think we were the only people ever to say, "Oh! That's not bad!" when we got the bill! ha!

 - Most animal hospitals offer "Care Credit" if you can't afford the bill in full, so you can make payments. I would urge anyone to not let the cost of the surgery be the deciding factor between life and death for your dog, especially if they are young and otherwise healthy. The vet will work with you on paying. But of course, everyone has to make their own decision about what's best for them, their dog, and family.

- I guess over all, doing surgery usually is somewhat of a gamble if you don't know for sure there's something stuck. But if your dog is up to date on vaccines, fairly young, and throwing up water immediately after drinking, I would say the chances of a foreign body being stuck vs. a random dog disease is high. Especially if your dog was fine before. With both of our's, we noticed they were sick immediately one morning when they were fine the day before.  They don't always have to do surgery to remove a foreign body either, sometimes they can get it out with just an endoscopy.

 - I would also HIGHLY recommend not giving your Bostons cloth toys. Especially if they are expert toy-destructors, It's just not worth the risk. Give them HARD plastic chew toys only.


I hope that none of you BT owners out there ever have to go through surgeries with your babies... it's scary! But if you do, I hope this post may inform you a little bit and help you make the best decisions for them. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!!!

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