Does your dog have a habit of eating and chewing on everything that they encounter? If so, you might be worried about intestinal blockages. Today, our Powder Springs vets discuss intestinal blockages in dogs including the signs, the importance of treating them quickly, and the surgery that may be needed to treat your pup.
The Causes of Dog Intestinal Blockages
Bowel obstruction is a common cause for worry in all dogs, this is when a dog's stomach or intestines have been partially or fully blocked. Blockages lead to a handful of complications, such as preventing food and water from passing through the GI tract and decreasing the animal's blood flow. Intestinal blockages in dogs can even become fatal within 3-7 days.
Blockages can develop anywhere along the digestive tract. Some might be able to pass into the esophagus, but not into the stomach. Others could pass into the stomach but not into the intestines or become lodged in the intricate twists and turns of a dog’s intestines.
Foreign bodies are the most common kind of bowel obstruction in dogs. Every pooch is at risk of swallowing surprising items such as socks, toys, underwear, dish towels, trash… the list continues! String, yarn, and rope fibers are especially hazardous for dogs as they could cause intestinal twisting. With older dogs, other common bowel obstructions to look out for are masses or tumors.
Signs & Symptoms of Intestinal Blockages in Dogs
There are several signs that can tell you if your dog has an intestinal blockage, however, the symptoms can look similar to an upset stomach unless you witnessed your dog swallow a foreign object.
- Loss of appetite
- Aggressive behavior when you touch their abdomen
- Painful abdomen to the touch
- Straining or unable to pass stool
If you think your dog ingested something suspicious or they are exhibiting the symptoms listed above call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Diagnosing Your Dog's Intestinal Blockage
If you have seen your dog eat a foreign object, you might be wondering how you can help your dog pass the obstruction, but you should not attempt this on your own, your dog needs veterinary care.
First, your vet will implement a comprehensive physical exam of your dog, paying special attention to the abdomen. They might also conduct blood work to find out if the blockage is impacting the overall health of your dog.
Then your dog will be brought into the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and any other imaging techniques that may be needed to try and find the foreign object. An example is an endoscopy, a procedure where a small tube with a tiny camera attached to it, is inserted through your dog’s throat and into the stomach (your pup will be sedated for this).
Treatment Intestinal Blockages in Dogs
Treatment for intestinal obstructions can be surgical or non-surgical. Many factors go into this decision including the location, how long the object has been stuck, and the size, shape, and structure of the object.
Sometimes, a vet can retrieve the foreign object with an endoscope. If this is not possible, your vet likely will consult the ultrasound or X-rays to determine where (and what) the obstruction is.
If given time some foreign objects can pass on their own. Although, when it comes to a timeline for intestinal blockage in dogs, time is of the essence. If the object does not pass on its own and your pooch starts to display any of the symptoms noted above they must be treated as fast as possible.
If your vet determines that the foreign object presents an immediate danger, emergency surgery is ordered.
Dog Intestinal blockage surgery
Dog intestinal blockage surgery is a major procedure, and your dog will need to be anesthetized. Following the surgery, your dog will need to stay at the hospital for a few days to recover.
For the intestinal surgery, your vet will make an incision into your dog’s abdomen near the blockage site and carefully extract the object. The length of surgery can vary because they may need to repair any damage to the stomach or intestinal wall resulting from the obstruction.
Your dog’s survival after surgery to remove an intestinal blockage depends on a few things:
- Your dog’s health prior to the surgery
- How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines
- Location, shape, and size of the foreign object
The physical exam and diagnostic tests that your vet performs before surgery will help them determine how well they think your dog will do after surgery. Of course, the sooner the surgery is performed, the better.
Recovery After Intestinal Blockage Surgery for Dogs
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:
- Dehiscence (Wound separation or opening)
- Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count)
- Sepsis (blood poisoning)
Following your dog's surgery and hospitalization, keep a close eye on them and make sure their activity level is very low. Take them for short walks only for at least a week — to make sure their sutures don't tear. Your pooch will also have to wear a cone to prevent them from chewing the healing incision.
It’s important to feed your dog small amounts of bland food before gradually transitioning them back to their previous diet at this time. Also, ensure they are drinking enough fluids so they don't become dehydrated.
Major surgery is painful. Your dog won’t be in pain during the surgery, of course, but will probably feel some pain afterward. Your vet will prescribe post-surgery pain medication for your dog. Follow the prescription instructions carefully to keep your dog’s pain under control at home and fight off infections.
Anesthesia can make some dogs feel nauseated after surgery and it’s actually common for dogs to vomit afterward. So, your vet may also prescribe medications to relieve your dog’s nausea and vomiting, if needed.
The Cost of Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery
The cost of intestinal blockage surgery for dogs can vary greatly based on many contributing factors including how extensive the surgery is, how long your dog has had the obstruction, the length of your pup's stay in the hospital, and many other elements. Contact your vet to get an estimated quote for the cost of your dog's intestinal blockage surgery.
Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Dogs
The best way to prevent your dog from experiencing an intestinal blockage is to limit their chances of ingesting materials that are not food.
- Keep an eye on your dog while they are playing with their toys or chewing on rawhide or bones.
- Putting things your dog may eat out of their reach.
- Keep your dogs from scavenging through garbage and debris (outside and inside the house).
- Be vigilant about items in the house and track when they are missing.
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.