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Starting October 1st, 2020, our ER service will not be seeing walk-in/triage cases Monday-Thursday from 6:00 am-3:00 pm. Life threatening emergencies will be seen!

Unfortunately, dogs will commonly ingest foreign bodies which can become lodged in the airway, esophagus, or stomach. Some of these foreign bodies may pass and become stuck in the small intestines as well. This can be life-threatening.

Airway foreign bodies:

Uncommonly, dogs can inhale foreign bodies that may become stuck in their nose or lungs. Nasal foreign bodies can be difficult to diagnose. Rhinoscopy (evaluation of the nasal cavity with a camera) can be used. It is especially important to look at the back of the nasal cavity (called nasopharyngeal area). Cats can also vomit hairballs or other objects that may become lodged in this area. Additionally, foreign bodies can be inhaled and go directly to the lungs. The most common culprit is grass awns. These foreign bodies are most likely successfully removed when diagnosed early on. Over time, excessive mucus secretion will "hide" foreign objects in the airways. At this point, these foreign objects are only able to be removed via thoracic surgery after being identified via CT scan. Occasionally, dogs and cats can inhale foreign objects into their lungs and develop significant respiratory distress. These cases are considered emergencies and should be addressed as soon as possible.

Esophageal foreign bodies:

Esophageal foreign bodies are considered an emergency because the foreign body will cause significant damage to the esophagus over time. Very serious damage can occur within hours depending on the foreign body composition, its size, size of patient, and location lodged.
Side-effects of esophageal foreign bodies include severe esophagitis, perforation of the esophagus and development of esophageal strictures in the future.
Esophageal strictures lead to the inability to eat because food often times does not pass through the stricture site. Decreased appetite and regurgitation as well as retching and excessive salivation are common clinical signs. Treatment of this complication is esophageal stricture ballooning, which is laborious and often times unsuccessful. Surgery is recommended in cases where the foreign body is not able to be removed endoscopically. This is considered the last resort because thoracic surgery is necessary and subsequent esophageal stricture is common. 

Gastric foreign bodies:

Removal of gastric foreign bodies is not as urgent as esophageal foreign bodies. However, gastric foreign bodies can cause significant damage to the stomach lining, systemic illness such as breakdown of red blood cells (penny ingestion) or toxin absorption, as well as obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract. Abdominal surgery is required once the intestines become obstructed.

Internal Medicine

What Is A Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist?

A board certified veterinary internal medicine specialist is a licensed veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional training in understanding how your pet's internal body systems function and in diagnosing and treating the many serious diseases that can affect the health of those systems. An internal medicine specialist has advanced training in the following disciplines:

  • Endocrinology
  • Cardiology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hematology (study of the blood)
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Nephrology/Urology
  • Neurology
  • Respiratory Diseases
  • Oncology

While your general practitioner veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems, certain diseases and conditions require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in internal medicine in order to provide the very best outcome for your pet.

*Within the discipline of veterinary internal medicine, there are also veterinarians who specialize further in Small Animal Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology, and Oncology.

Why Does My Pet Need A Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist?

Just as your own primary care physician may feel the need to refer you to the care of a specialist from time to time, your general practitioner veterinarian may feel your pet needs a specialist to help diagnose or treat a particularly complicated medical problem. While your general practitioner veterinarian can handle many aspects of your pet's care, just as in human medicine, there is sometimes a need for the attention of a specialist. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when to refer you and your pet for more specialized diagnostic work or treatment is one that is caring and committed to ensuring that your pet receives the highest standard of medical care for his or her problem.

While in some cases, your veterinarian may be able to simply consult with a specialist about your pet's care, in other cases it is necessary to actually refer you and your pet to the specialist for more advanced diagnostics and treatment. Board certified veterinary internists may also have access to specialized diagnostic or treatment tools that a general practitioner veterinarian may not have.

What Health Problems Does A Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist Treat?

Board certified internal medicine specialists are trained to treat the most serious diseases and health problems that affect pets. They are also especially prepared to care for pets that may be facing multiple health problems. Thanks to better health care, more and more pets are living longer lives. As a result, an increasing number of older pets, just like older people, are coping with multiple disease states that can be very difficult to manage. For example, a cat with diabetes may also be suffering from kidney failure, or a dog in heart failure may also be diagnosed with cancer. Internal medicine specialists are uniquely prepared to oversee the care of these complicated cases. In other situations, a younger animal may develop a problem that used to be considered untreatable but is now manageable and perhaps even curable.

Here are some common diseases that frequently lead general practitioner veterinarians and concerned pet owners to seek the expertise of a specialist:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Immune Related Disorders
  • Kidney Dysfunction

Why Can't I See an Internal Medicine Specialist All the Time?

In some cases you can. In many practices, the 'general practitioner' veterinarian at a practice is also a boarded internal medicine specialist. General practice veterinarians, however, are also highly educated medical professionals who must meet ongoing continuing education requirements throughout their professional careers in order to maintain their licensure. When a specialist is needed, he or she is only a phone call or a visit away.

Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?

In many cases, your regular veterinarian will still supervise your pet's veterinary care, especially if your pet is coping with multiple disease states or conditions. In other cases, your referral doctor will take over the majority of your pet's medical care. It depends on your pet's particular disease and health problem.

Did You Know?

There are approximately 1400 board certified veterinary internal medicine specialists in the United States, and the number is growing.

Our Internal Medicine Services

Abdominal Ultrasonography-Abdominocentesis and Cystocentesis
Advanced Anesthetic Monitoring

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