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Foreign Body Ingestion & Behavior Disorders in Dogs

Leslie Sinn, CPDT-KA, DVM, DACVB, Behavior Solutions for Pets, Hamilton, Virginia


|April 2022

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In the literature

Masson S, Guitaut N, Medam T, Béata C. Link between foreign body ingestion and behavioural disorder in dogs. J Vet Behav. 2021;45:25-32.


The influence of behavioral disorders on the occurrence of pica, foreign body ingestion, and subsequent obstruction is undetermined. Many behavioral disorders (eg, lack of impulse control, hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive disorders) have been proposed as possible causes of foreign body ingestion.

Researchers in this retrospective, owner-based study used 2 questionnaires: the 4A scale (owner assessments of behavior along 4 axes [auto-control, attachment, anxiety, aggressiveness]) and an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder rating scale (owner assessment of hyperactivity–impulsivity and inattention levels).1,2 Both questionnaires were used to quantify the extent of behavior concerns in 42 affected dogs and their pair-matched controls.

Affected dogs were categorized as senior dogs with no previous history of ingestion (current foreign body ingestion was due to suspected GI problems or underlying pain), older dogs that occasionally ingested foreign bodies, or younger dogs that regularly shredded and ingested nonedible objects. Results suggested foreign body ingestion is primarily driven by behavior abnormalities (88%) versus GI pain and discomfort (12%). Results also suggested that shredding objects is linked to hyperactivity–impulsivity disorder; however, absence of this behavior in patients with foreign body ingestion suggests anxiety or attachment disorder.


Key pearls to put into practice:


Regular object shredding by dogs should raise concern and prompt further behavioral evaluation.



Potential behavior causes should be investigated in any dog that exhibits pica.



GI disorders and pain were not found to be the primary cause of foreign body ingestion in this study, but other studies have found a significant link between pain and abnormal behavior, including foreign body ingestion.3,4 A thorough physical examination and appropriate additional diagnostics (including GI analysis, if indicated) should be pursued.


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