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Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

You may be concerned about bowel obstructions if your dog chews or consumes objects indiscriminately. Our vets in Goleta discuss what leads to bowel obstructions in dogs and why these situations require immediate attention from veterinary professionals.

How Dogs Get Bowel Obstructions

Bowel obstructions (also known as intestinal blockages) often occur when a dog's stomach or intestines get partially or entirely blocked. Obstructions can result in a handful of complications, including preventing food and water from passing through your dog's GI tract and decreasing blood flow. Bowel obstructions in dogs can also be fatal within 3-7 days.

Obstructions can manifest anywhere along a dog's digestive tract. Some may traverse the esophagus but fail to reach the stomach. Others might enter the stomach but not progress into the intestines or become stuck in a dog's intricate twists and turns.

The most prevalent type of bowel obstruction in dogs arises from foreign bodies. All dogs face the risk of ingesting unexpected objects like underwear, socks, dish towels, and toys. String, yarn, and rope fibers pose a particular danger to dogs as they can induce intestinal twisting. You should also be vigilant for common bowel obstructions like masses and tumors in older dogs.

The Signs & Symptoms of Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

Below, we have listed some common symptoms and signs of bowel obstructions in dogs:

  • Painful abdomen to the touch
  • Restlessness
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Bloating
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Whining
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

It can be easy to brush off the symptoms above as merely an upset stomach unless you have seen your dog swallow a foreign object. But, if you think your dog has ingested something suspicious or is exhibiting the signs detailed above, it's imperative to call your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Diagnosing Dog Bowel Obstructions

If you see your dog consume a foreign object, you may wonder how you can help them pass the obstruction, but you shouldn't try to do this on your own; your dog requires veterinary care.

First, your vet will physically examine your dog, paying close attention to the abdomen. They could also implement blood work to determine if the blockage affects your dog's overall health.

Your furry companion will then undergo X-rays and any necessary imaging procedures within the on-site diagnostic lab to locate the foreign object. One such procedure is an endoscopy, which involves the insertion of a small tube equipped with a tiny camera down your dog's throat and into the stomach. This procedure requires sedation for your dog's comfort and safety.

How Bowel Obstructions are Treated In Dogs

Surgical and non-surgical treatments exist for bowel obstructions. To determine the appropriate treatment, several factors come into play, including the blockage's location, duration, and the item's shape, size, and structure.

Sometimes, vets can retrieve the foreign object with an endoscope. If this isn't possible, your vet will probably have to consult the ultrasound or X-rays to figure out where (and what) the obstruction is.

While some foreign objects may eventually pass naturally, time is critical when it comes to intestinal blockages in dogs. If the object doesn't pass on its own and your dog shows the described symptoms, immediate treatment is necessary.

Your vet will order surgery if they determine that the foreign object presents an immediate danger.

Surgery For Dogs With Bowel Obstructions

Bowel obstruction surgery involves significant steps for dogs, requiring anesthesia for your furry friend. After the procedure, your dog will need to remain at the hospital for several days to recuperate.

For the intestinal surgery, your vet will make an incision into your dog's abdomen close to the blockage site and extract the object very carefully. The length of this surgery can vary because they might have to repair any damage to the stomach or intestinal wall caused by the obstruction.

The chances of your dog's survival after intestinal blockage surgery will depend on a few factors, including :

  • How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines
  • The health of your dog prior to the surgery
  • Size, shape, and location of the foreign object

The physical exam and diagnostic tests that your vet performs before your pup's surgery will help them better understand how well your dog will recover following surgery. However, the faster the surgery can be performed, the better.

Helping Your Dog Recover After Bowel Obstruction Surgery

The first 72 hours after surgery is the most critical period for your dog. If the patient is doing well after 72 hours, then they typically recover well, but there are still some potential complications:

  • Dehiscence (Wound separation or opening)
  • Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count)
  • Sepsis (blood poisoning)

It is essential to feed your dog small portions of bland food initially and gradually transition them back to their regular diet. Additionally, make sure they stay adequately hydrated.

It's imperative that you only feed your dog small amounts of bland food before gradually transitioning them back to their usual diet. You also need to ensure they get enough fluids to stay dehydrated.

Keep in mind that major surgery can be painful for your dog. Although they won't feel any pain during the surgery, they may experience discomfort afterward. Your vet will provide pain medication for your dog after the surgery. It's crucial to follow your vet's prescription instructions carefully to manage your dog's pain and prevent infections at home.

Anesthesia can make some dogs feel nauseated after surgery, and it's common for dogs to vomit afterward. As a result, your vet may also prescribe medications to relieve your dog's nausea and vomiting.

How Much Bowel Obstruction Surgery Costs

The cost of your dog's intestinal blockage surgery will depend on a range of factors, including how extensive the surgery is, how long they had the obstruction, the length of your pup's hospital stay, and more.

Ways To Help Prevent Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

The best way to prevent your dog from getting an intestinal blockage is to limit their chances of ingesting non-food material.

  • Keep an eye on your dog while playing with their toys or chewing on rawhide or bones.
  • Be vigilant about the items in your home and track when they go missing.
  • Don't let your dog scavenge through garbage and debris (outside and inside the house).
  • Put items your dog may eat out of their reach.

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.

If you think your dog may have a bowel obstruction, contact our Goleta vets as quickly as possible to schedule an appointment or bring your dog to the closest emergency veterinary clinic for after-hours care.

New Patients Welcome

At Goleta Airport Pet Hospital, we are always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health and well-being of all Goleta pet companions. Contact us to book your pet's first appointment today!

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(805) 968-4300