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Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

If your dog has a habit of chewing or eating anything that comes its way, you may be concerned about the possibility of bowel obstructions. In this article, our veterinarians in Westport will discuss why bowel obstructions in dogs require immediate veterinary attention.

How Dogs Get Bowel Obstructions

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

Obstructions can happen anywhere along a dog's digestive tract. Some may be able to pass into the esophagus but not into the stomach. Others could pass into the stomach but not into the intestines or get lodged in the intricate twists and turns of a dog's intestines.

It's important to be aware that foreign objects are a frequent cause of bowel blockages in dogs. Any dog, regardless of breed or age, may accidentally ingest unexpected items like socks, underwear, toys, or dish towels. It's especially dangerous for dogs to swallow string, yarn, or rope fibers because they can cause the intestines to twist. For older dogs, it's important to keep an eye out for masses or tumors that can also lead to bowel obstructions.

The Signs & Symptoms of Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

Here are some typical indications and symptoms 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 is ingested something suspicious or exhibiting the signs detailed above, it's imperative to call your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

Diagnosing Dog Bowel Obstructions

If your dog ingests a foreign object, it's natural to want to help them pass it, but it's important to seek veterinary care instead of attempting to do so on your own.

The first step your vet will take is to perform a physical exam on your dog, with a focus on the abdomen. They may also conduct blood work to determine if the obstruction is negatively impacting your dog's overall health.

Your pup will be brought to the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and any other imaging techniques required to try and find the foreign object. One such test is an endoscopy, a procedure that inserts a small tube with a tiny attached camera through your dog's throat and into the stomach. Your dog will be sedated for this procedure.

How Bowel Obstructions are Treated In Dogs

When dealing with bowel obstructions, there are two types of treatments available: surgical and non-surgical. Deciding which option to use will depend on various factors, such as the location of the blockage, the duration of the obstruction, and the size, shape, and structure of the object. In some cases, vets can remove the foreign object using an endoscope. If this is not possible, ultrasound or X-rays may be used to locate the obstruction.

While some foreign objects may pass naturally over time, every second counts when it comes to intestinal blockages in dogs. If your dog displays symptoms and the object does not pass on its own, it is essential to seek prompt treatment. If the foreign object poses an immediate danger, surgery may be necessary as determined by your vet.

Surgery For Dogs With Bowel Obstructions

If your dog has a bowel obstruction, they may require surgery which will involve anesthesia. After the procedure, your furry friend will need to recover at the hospital for a few days.

During the surgery, your veterinarian will create an incision near the blockage site in your dog's abdomen and delicately remove the object causing the obstruction. The length of the procedure may vary depending on whether any harm was caused to the intestines or stomach walls, which may require repair.

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 prior to your pup's surgery will help them get a better understanding of 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)

If your dog has undergone surgery and has been hospitalized, it is important to monitor their activity level and keep it very low. For the first week, only take them on short walks to prevent the sutures from tearing. Your dog will also need to wear a cone to prevent them from licking or chewing the incision as it heals.\

It is crucial that you feed your dog small amounts of bland food and gradually transition them back to their regular diet. Additionally, make sure they are getting enough fluids to prevent dehydration.

Although the surgery itself is painless, your dog may experience some discomfort after the surgery. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication to manage your dog's pain at home and prevent infections. It is important to follow the prescription instructions carefully.

Anesthesia can cause nausea and vomiting in some dogs after surgery. If this occurs, your vet may prescribe medication to alleviate your dog's discomfort.

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

To prevent your dog from developing an intestinal blockage, it is advisable to restrict their access to non-food items.

  • Keep an eye on your dog while they are 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 suspect that your dog is experiencing bowel obstruction, it is important to immediately schedule an appointment with our vets in Westport. 

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