“Slip of the Tongue”

written by
Melissa A. Rotella, DVM


Sebastian is a two year old male neutered Chihuahua that was recently seen here at Route 516 Animal Hospital. For a few months prior to presentation, Sebastian had been crying out in what his owner assumed was pain when petting his head. He also had not been eating as much and had lost almost 14% of his body weight. Sebastian had also developed an occasional cough. All of these signs were inconsistent, but becoming worse over time.

On physical exam, Sebastian appeared happy and healthy. He was, however, very resistant to opening his mouth and a foul smelling odor was noted. The cause of most oral odor is usually from infected gums or tooth decay. However, Sebastian’s teeth were pearly white! Since Sebastian wouldn’t allow a full oral exam be performed, it was necessary to sedate him for a thorough exam.


Once Sebastian was sedated, a fairly large, ulcerative and infected growth was detected underneath the tongue. We had found the source of the odor and pain! Upon further evaluation of the oral cavity, a string was seen wrapped around the base of the tongue and extending down the throat. The proliferate tissue growth seen under the tongue was in response to the string foreign body. Every time Sebastian swallowed, he was most likely in pain.

Foreign bodies lodged or embedded in the oral cavity are not extremely common, but can be a real source of pain and infection for both dogs and cats. Signs of oral discomfort are usually noted (pawing at the mouth, decreased appetite, and reluctance to eat hard food). Other clinical signs can be facial swelling, odor, drooling, oral discharge (blood or pus); or more nonspecific signs such as depression or vomiting. Once the foreign body is detected and removed, treatment consists of antibiotics and pain medication. It is a good idea to avoid situations that could lead to foreign body injuries (i.e. chewing on sticks, fishing line, bones, yarn, etc). Foreign bodies that are fully ingested and not limited to the oral cavity usually cause some other clinical signs such as vomiting and/or diarrhea. Gastrointestinal surgery is usually required to remove foreign bodies of the intestinal tract.


It has been over a month since Sebastian had the string removed from around the base of his tongue and he is doing great!. Sebastian has gained weight and is back to his usually happy self!