The animal may inhale or swallow small foreign bodies like grass, bristles, small pieces of wood, stones etc. that may become lodged in the lower airways.
After the animal inhales a foreign body, and it “goes down the wrong tube”, a strong coughing reflex is usually triggered, and usually the foreign body is expelled in most cases. However, if the object is trapped and coughing is ineffective, the foreign body is left lodged in the lower airways. In these cases owners often observe that their dog becomes less tolerant of exercise. As long as a foreign body is lodged in the lower airways, the risk of a subsequent bronchitis or other conditions that affects the airways is increased.
When inhaling, small foreign objects can enter the dog’s airways. This happens more frequently in hunting dogs or other sniffer breeds. Dogs with swallowing disorders tend to inhale bodily fluids instead of swallowing them properly, and are also at risk of inhaling objects in their surroundings.
Administering antibiotics to the animal may soothe coughing, however, if the coughing relapses this is cause to be suspicious of a foreign body. Unfortunately, X-rays are not always helpful diagnosing a foreign body, as inhaled objects are not necessarily radiation-dense. Examining the animal’s clinical history with the owner may lead towards a diagnosis of a foreign body. Endoscopy is considered the most reliable technique to discover a foreign body of the airways. Foreign bodies may be removed or loosened with an instrument similar to tweezers. If the foreign body cannot be removed, and is lodged in a section of the lungs, resection of the affected lung lobe has to be considered. In this case, antibiotics are given until surgery is performed.
If your dog likes to sniff, if he is suffering from a swallowing disorder, or if he has recently wandered through a pasture, the likeliness that a foreign body may have entered in his/her airways is increased. If the foreign body has reached the lower airways, it is often trapped and may become critical, you should consult a veterinarian or a clinic as soon as possible in order to retrieve the object and begin any necessary treatment.