If your dog chews and eats things they shouldn't, you might worry about them getting blockage in their stomach or intestines. Our vets in San Mateo often deal with this issue. If left untreated, it can result in debilitating health problems and, in some cases, requires major surgery to save your dog's life.
How Do Intestinal Blockages Happen In Dogs?
Bowel obstruction is a condition where the stomach or intestines get partially or completely blocked and is a significant concern for all dogs. Blockages result in several complications. These include food and water not passing through the gastrointestinal tract. Within 3 to 7 days, your dog can die of an intestinal blockage.
Obstructions can occur anywhere along the digestive tract. Certain types may pass through the esophagus but not the stomach. Others may pass through the stomach but not the intestines. Or they become trapped in the intricate twists and turns of the intestines.
The most common cause of intestinal obstruction is foreign objects. Every dog is at risk of swallowing unexpected items like toys, trash, and the list goes on! String, yarn, and rope fibers are dangerous because they can twist in the intestines. Additionally, masses or tumors are common bowel obstructions in older dogs.
What Are The Symptoms Of Intestinal Blockages In Dogs?
How do you determine whether your dog has an intestinal obstruction? Unless you have seen your dog swallow a foreign object, symptoms of dog intestinal blockage are usually dismissed as an upset stomach. Symptoms include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Straining or unable to poop
- Painful abdomen to the touch
- Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
If you think your dog ingested something suspicious or they are exhibiting the symptoms listed below, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diagnosis For Intestinal Blockages In Dogs
If you saw your dog eat a foreign object, you may be wondering how you can help. But now you shouldn't attempt it on your own. Your dog requires veterinary care.
The vet will start by giving your dog a physical examination, focusing on the abdomen. Further, they may perform blood work to assess if the blockage is affecting your dog's health.
Your dog will be taken to the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and any other imaging technique necessary to get a clear picture. One such test is an endoscopy. This involves inserting a small tube with a tiny camera into your dog's throat and stomach. This procedure is performed while sedated.
Treatment For Intestinal Blockages In Dogs
You have two main options for treating intestinal blockages: surgery or non-surgical. The choice depends on various factors, such as where the blockage is, how long it's been there, and the size, shape, and structure of the object causing it.
In some instances, a veterinarian may be able to remove the foreign object using an endoscope. If this isn't possible, your vet will usually consult ultrasound or X-rays to learn the location (and nature) of the obstruction.
Certain objects can eventually pass through the dog's system, but time is crucial when dealing with intestinal blockages in dogs. If the object doesn't pass on its own and your dog shows any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek treatment promptly.
If your vet determines that the foreign object is life-threatening, they'll order emergency surgery.
Intestinal Blockage Surgery For Dogs
Dog intestinal blockage surgery is a major procedure that requires anesthesia. Following surgery, your dog will remain in the hospital for several days to recover.
To perform the surgery, your vet makes an incision near the blockage site in your dog's abdomen and removes the object. The length of surgery varies depending on the extent of damage to the stomach or intestinal wall.
Your dog's survival following intestinal obstruction surgery is contingent upon a few factors:
- Size, shape, and location of the foreign object
- How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines
- Your dog's health before the surgery
The physical exam and diagnostic tests performed before surgery will help determine how well your dog does after surgery. Naturally, the earlier surgery, the better.
Dogs' Recovery After Intestinal Blockage Surgery
The most critical period for your dog is the first 72 hours after surgery. If the patient is doing well after 72 hours, then they typically recover well, but there are still some potential complications:
- Sepsis (blood poisoning)
- Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count)
- Dehiscence (Wound separation or opening)
The first 72 hours after your dog's surgery are crucial. If your dog is doing well during this time, they should recover, but there are still some risks to be aware of:
After surgery and hospitalization, track your dog's activity and keep it at a minimum. For at least a week, limit yourself to short walks — you don't want their sutures to tear. Also, your dog will need a cone to prevent them from chewing on the healing incision.
During this time, it is critical to feed your dog small amounts of bland food before transitioning back to their previous diet. Additionally, ensure they are receiving adequate fluids to avoid dehydration.
Major surgery can be painful. Your dog won't feel pain during the surgery, but they will likely experience pain afterward. Your veterinarian will provide pain medication for your dog after the surgery. Follow the instructions to manage your dog's pain and prevent infections.
Anesthesia may cause nausea in some dogs, leading to vomiting. If necessary, your vet may prescribe medications to relieve your dog's nausea and vomiting.
Preventing Intestinal Blockages In Dogs
The most effective way to stop intestinal blockages is to cut exposure to non-food items.
- Putting things your dog may eat out of his reach.
- Be vigilant about items in the house and track when they are missing.
- Keep an eye on your dog while playing with his toys or chewing on rawhide or bones.
- Keep your dogs from scavenging through garbage and debris (outside and inside the house).
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.