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Glossary Term: Linear Foreign Body

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Kitten playing with ball of string - image: toby-won-kenobi on Flickr

Kitten playing with string

© toby-won-kenobi on Flickr
Definition: Pronunciation Key: Lin-ee-er For-ehn Bod-y

A linear foreign body is any sting-like object ingested (or partially ingested) that causes gastrointestinal obstruction. String, ribbon, thread (often with needle attached), rubber bands, Easter grass and tinsel are common linear foreign bodies.

This type of obstruction can be life-threatening very quickly. Both cats and dogs can suffer from this, although as one could guess, it is much more common in cats.

Related: My cat was playing with a string, then ate it. Is this a problem?

Many times the history aids in diagnosis (cat was playing with sting, etc.) or there may be part of the string visible from the mouth, under the tongue or protruding form the anus. The pet may be actively vomiting, straining to defecate or lethargic.

String-like objects can "gather up" and shred delicate tissues like the intestinal tract, as shown in the diagrams of this article. It is important to not pull on any visible thread without veterinary supervision, as this can cause further damage. Often, surgery is required to remove the object.

Text: Copyright © Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM. All rights reserved.
Image: Kitten playing with string © toby-won-kenobi on Flickr

Pronunciation: Pronunciation Key: Lin-ee-er For-ehn Bod-y
Also Known As: string foreign body
Examples:
At first it was amusing, if not a little bothersome, to see her cat always playing in the sewing basket. Now, after an emergency surgery to remove a linear foreign body, Mary is sure to put all thread and needles out of her cat's reach!

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