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BANFIELD Pet Health By The Numbers

Prevalence of Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies

Prevalence of Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies



In each issue of Today’s Veterinary Practice, Pet Health by the Numbers correlates an article topic with statistics provided by Banfield Pet Hospital (banfield.com). These statistics are extracted from data collected from the medical records of nearly 2.4 million dogs and more than 480,000 cats presented to more than 890 Banfield Pet Hospitals in 2014.

Learn more about data collection by reading Welcome to Pet Health by the Numbers (January/February 2014 issue) and Key Findings from the State of Pet Health 2014 Report (May/June 2014 issue), both available at tvpjournal.com.

The following tables outline the prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) foreign bodies in dogs and cats presented to Banfield Pet Hospitals in 2014. Removal of gastrointestinal foreign bodies is discussed in Endoscopy Essentials: Endoscopic Foreign Body Retrieval.


*NOTE: Age group and reproductive status totals do not match overall totals. Age groups are derived from visit age in 2014; some pets may have been counted in multiple age categories (eg, a pet that visited as a juvenile and then as a young adult in 2014). Reproductive status totals do not match due to animals of unknown sex or reproductive status.



Path to Pet Wellness: These data from Banfield Pet Hospital represent the largest survey performed of the incidence of gastrointestinal foreign bodies (GIFBs) in dogs and cats. As most small animal practitioners would suspect, younger dogs (< 1 year of age) have the highest prevalence of GIFBs. Interestingly, the age range with the highest prevalence in cats is slightly older than their canine counterparts (1–3 years of age). Somewhat surprisingly, pit bulls win out in the breed category (42.78/10,000 dogs seen) over Labrador retrievers (37.47/10,000 dogs seen). The incidence of GIFBs in dogs parallels their size, with giant breeds having the highest incidence and toy or small breeds having the lowest incidence. I would speculate that larger breed dogs may be able to ingest items, such as cloth, socks, or toys, that smaller dogs are not able to swallow.

It is important to note that GIFBs occurred in dogs and cats of every age and size; therefore, this diagnosis should be considered a possibility in any dog or cat presenting for vomiting. These data do not distinguish the location of the foreign bodies in the GI tract, but one previous study reported that 63% of canine GIFB obstructions occurred in the jejunum.1 A thorough history and physical examination, including abdominal palpation, is indicated in animals presenting with vomiting to guide further diagnostic testing, which might include plain and possibly positive contrast abdominal radiographs or abdominal ultrasound.

David E. Holt, BVSc, Diplomate ACVS, University of Pennsylvania


  1. Hayes G. Gastrointestinal foreign bodies in dogs and cats: A retrospective study of 208 cases. J Small Anim Pract 2009; 50:576-583.