Does your dog tend to eat things they shouldn't? If so, it's essential to watch for signs of intestinal blockages. Intestinal blockages (obstructions) are relatively common issues seen by our Lancaster vets. Here we look at the causes and symptoms of this very serious condition, as well as the surgery that could save your dog's life.
How Dog Intestinal Blockages Happen
One of the major concerns for all dog owners is bowel obstruction, which occurs when a dog's stomach or intestines are partially or completely blocked. This condition can lead to various complications, including hindering the passage of food and water through the gastrointestinal tract and reducing blood flow. If left untreated, an intestinal blockage can even be fatal for a dog within 3-7 days.
Bowel obstructions can happen at any point along the digestive tract. Some obstructions may pass through the esophagus but not the stomach, while others may make it to the stomach but get stuck in the twists and turns of the intestines. The most common cause of bowel obstructions in dogs is foreign objects, as dogs have a tendency to swallow things like toys, trash, socks, underwear, and dish towels.
String, yarn, and rope fibers are particularly hazardous to dogs as they can cause intestinal twisting. With older dogs, masses or tumors are also common causes of bowel obstructions that need to be monitored.
Dog Intestinal Blockage Timeline
A common question is, 'Can a dog die from intestinal blockage?'. Sadly yes. If an intestinal blockage is left untreated the blockage could press against the intestinal wall leading to damage of the intestines and possibly causing the tissue to die or result in a bowel rupture or perforation. Without appropriate treatment, dogs with complete intestinal blockage will typically die within 3-4 days.
Some foreign objects, given time, can pass on their own. However, when it comes to a timeline for intestinal blockage in dogs, time is of the absolute essence. If the object does not pass on its own and your dog has the symptoms listed above, your dog will need to be treated as soon as possible.
If your vet determines that the foreign object presents an immediate danger, emergency surgery is ordered. Seek urgent veterinary care if your pet shows any of the dog intestinal blockage symptoms listed below.
Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs
Are you concerned about your dog having an intestinal blockage? It can be hard to recognize the symptoms as they may seem like a regular stomach upset. However, if your dog has swallowed a foreign object or displays any of the following symptoms, it's best to contact your vet immediately for assistance.
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, or contact your nearest animal emergency center.
Diagnosing Dog Intestinal Blockages
If you have witnessed your dog ingesting a foreign object, it is natural to be concerned about their well-being. However, it is crucial not to take matters into your own hands and seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.
Upon arrival at the vet, a thorough physical examination will be conducted, with particular attention paid to the abdomen area. Blood tests may also be performed to assess the overall impact of the obstruction on your dog's health.
Subsequently, your dog will be taken to the in-house diagnostic laboratory, where X-rays and other imaging techniques will be used to locate the foreign object. To achieve this, an endoscopy may be performed, which involves inserting a small tube with a tiny camera attached through the throat and into the stomach. During this procedure, your dog will be sedated.
Treatments For Intestinal Blockage in Dogs
When dealing with intestinal obstructions, the treatment options are either surgical or non-surgical, depending on several factors. These factors include the location, duration of the obstruction, as well as the size, shape, and structure of the object.
If feasible, a vet may extract the object using an endoscope. However, if this is not viable, an ultrasound or X-rays will be utilized to identify the obstruction's location and nature.
Intestinal Blockage Surgery for Dogs
Dog intestinal blockage surgery is a major procedure, requiring your dog to be anesthetized. After the surgery, your dog will stay at the hospital and recover for several days
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:
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 that your vet performs before surgery will help them determine how well they think your dog will do after veterinary surgery. Of course, the sooner the surgery is performed, 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)
After your dog undergoes surgery and stays in the hospital, monitoring their activity level and keeping it very low is important. Only take them for short walks for at least a week to prevent any tearing of their sutures. Additionally, your dog will need to wear a cone to prevent them from chewing on the healing incision.
During this time, it is crucial to feed your dog small amounts of bland food before gradually transitioning to their previous diet. Ensure that they are also receiving enough fluids to prevent dehydration.
Major surgery can be painful for your dog, and while they won't feel any pain during the surgery, they may experience some discomfort afterward. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe post-surgery pain medication for your dog, and it is important to follow the instructions carefully to manage their pain effectively and avoid infections.
Anesthesia can cause some dogs to feel nauseated after surgery, and it is common for them to vomit afterward. Your vet may prescribe medications to relieve your dog's nausea and vomiting if necessary.
Intestinal Blockage Surgery Cost
The cost of intestinal blockage surgery for dogs can vary dramatically depending on how extensive the surgery is, how long the obstruction has been present, the length of the hospital stay, and other factors such as the overall health of your dog, age of your dog, and even where you live. To get an accurate estimate of how much your dog's intestinal blockage surgery will cost you must speak to your vet or veterinary surgeon.
Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Dogs
To prevent your dog from developing intestinal blockages, it's advisable to minimize their exposure to non-food substances.
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 he is 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.