What To Know About Obstruction in Your Pet

Q: What is a gastro intestinal foreign body obstruction?

A gastro intestinal foreign body obstruction can be almost anything that your pet ingests that cannot pass through the digestive system due to its size, shape or consistency.
The blockage may occur at any point in the gastro intestinal track from the esophagus through to the lower intestines.

Q: What items around my house should I be concerned about and are all dog specific toys safe?

 Things to be concerned about include, but are not limited to, socks, underwear, raw and cooked bones, stuffing from blankets, children’s toys, rocks, golf balls, sticks, ear plugs, string, corn cobs, garbage and plastic.  We’ve even retrieved remote control pieces and fishing hooks! Never assume all dog toys are safe. Always monitor your pet when introducing a new toy making sure he won’t try to ingest it. Tennis balls and stuffed toys tend to be a common culprit.


Q: How will I know if my pet has an obstruction?

Clinical signs of gastro intestinal foreign body obstructions vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may come and go as the foreign body moves along the gastro intestinal tract. Depending on where the obstruction occurs, symptoms include nausea (drooling and licking lips), choking, anorexia, vomiting (usually after eating or drinking), diarrhea or straining to defecate. Your pet may also exhibit signs of pain such as excessive panting, reluctance to play, walking with a hunched posture, or yelping when picked up.


Q: How will my veterinarian diagnose this and what kind of medical treatment should I expect?

Your veterinarian will start with a thorough physical/oral exam. He/she will want a pretty extensive history from you such as when the symptoms first started, has he eaten anything abnormal, been in a different environment, anything missing around the house, does he often get into garbage, etc. The next step involves radiographs to try and locate the object or changes in the stomach and bowel patterns. Sometimes we use a barium study where an oral dye is ingested and further radiographs are taken to follow the passage of the dye. Both radiographs and barium studies can also rule out suspected foreign body obstructions so your vet can look for other reasons why your pet is exhibiting some of the above mentioned symptoms. We may also use the endoscope as a diagnostic tool to visualize the stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract. Endoscopy is a non-invasive means of diagnosis and treatment, in many cases preventing unnecessary surgery. An endoscope consists of a camera and light source and can be used to visualize the nasal passages, ear canals, airways, esophagus, stomach and colon.  Videos and pictures of the procedure can be recorded and biopsies can be obtained with minimal trauma to your pet. The endoscope has proved especially useful in cases such as gastro intestinal foreign bodies. Once located, treatment depends on the type of obstruction and where it is found.

If your veterinarian suspects it may pass on its own, your pet may be started on pain medications and intravenous fluids with follow up x-rays later that day to track its movement. If the object has become lodged in the esophagus, stomach, or upper small intestines, your veterinarian may be able to retrieve the object using an endoscope with special forceps while under general anesthetic. If retrieval is successful, this means avoiding surgery and the associated risks, pain, and longer recovery associated with it. In some cases the object is too big, has perforated, or is too far down the intestinal tract for the endoscope to retrieve and the only option at this point is an exploratory laparotomy (surgery). Your veterinarian will be able to determine prognosis for recovery and recovery time depending on your pet’s individual circumstances.


Q: How can I prevent this from happening to my pet?

You can help prevent foreign body obstructions by keeping things that your pet may ingest out of reach and not leaving him unattended with toys he could potentially pull apart and swallow. If your dog is a known offender, you may want to crate train him while left home alone. If you have one of those dogs that no matter what you do or how hard you’ve trained still eats everything under the sun and your walks consist of you racing to the potential “treasure” before he has a chance to grab it and swallow it whole, you may want to try a cage muzzle. With the proper use and right fit, dogs can enjoy walks outside with their owners as well as a little more freedom to explore. Even though this may sound extreme, the consequences of a foreign body obstruction can be severe, not to mention expensive, so prevention is absolutely the best medicine.

Written by Van Isle Veterinary Hospital


Get a Cupcake and Support BC Animals in Need During Treat Week (Feb 24 - Mar 1, 2020)

Van Isle Veterinary Hospital is super excited to be hosting our 4th annual cupcake day fundraiser! BCSPCA celebrates “Treat Week” across the Province from Feb 24th – March 1st 2020 where business, pet owners and animal lovers can bake up a storm and sell treats with the proceeds going to BC animals in need.

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Last updated: July 5, 2021

Dear Clients,

At this time, we will be maintaining our current health and safety policies as the province entered the next stage of on July 1, 2021.

Note: We will not be making changes to our health and safety policy until our staff have had the opportunity to receive their second vaccine.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!

As you can imagine, we have a significant backlog of surgeries and wellness/vaccine exams to catch up on and we will be working hard over the next several weeks to do just that. We want to thank everyone in advance for your patience while we work through this. Although restrictions have been lifted, our health and safety protocols have not. It is important we continue to follow the guidelines set out by Worksafe BC and social distance our large team as much as possible. This means although we can offer these elective services, we are doing much fewer during the day than we were pre-COVID.


As of July 7, 2021, we are excited to invite our clients back into the exam rooms! We have put some important safety measures in place to help keep our clients and our team safe.


The use of our online store for easy ordering, payment and delivery of our pet's food, flea and tick medications. Orders over $100 can be delivered to your home for free! CLICK HERE


During the first 8 weeks of COVID, we were operating as a 24-hour facility to better serve our community and to maintain social distancing within our team. However, as the COVID-19 situation changes, so do we!

Our team of doctors felt it was important to get back to performing your pet's much needed regular services. In order to do so safely, we had to once again change the way we do business. 

As such, effective October 6, 2020, we will no longer be available for after-hours, on call services between midnight and 7:00 am. After-hours emergency care will be referred to Central Island Veterinary Emergency Hospital between the hours of midnight - 7:00 am. They can be reached at 250-933-0913.

We will continue to be available until midnight for your call-in, after hours needs.

Our regular hours of operation remain the same:

Monday - Friday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm

Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

We are all looking forward to this next stage in our Province’s reopening and the future is looking bright! Thank you for helping us make this transition as safe as possible, so our team can be at its best and continue to look after your pet!

- Your dedicated team at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital