What happens when a dog has an intestinal blockage?
Bowel obstruction, when the stomach or intestines are partially or completely blocked, is a common cause of concern in all dogs. Many pet parents wonder 'Can a dog die from an intestinal blockage?'. 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.
Foreign bodies are the most common type of intestinal obstruction. Every pup is at risk of swallowing unexpected objects 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.
Signs of an Intestinal Blockage 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. Common dog intestinal blockage 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.
How will the vet diagnose an intestinal blockage?
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.
Your vet begins with a physical examination, paying close attention to the abdomen. Further, they may perform blood work to assess if the blockage is affecting your dog's health.
Your dog will go to the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and any other imaging technique necessary. 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.
How are dog intestinal blockages treated?
Surgical or non-surgical treatment options are available for intestinal obstructions. Several factors influence this decision. These include location, the length of time the object has been stuck, and the object's size, shape, and structure.
A veterinarian may be able to remove the foreign object using an endoscope in some instances. If this isn't possible, your vet will usually consult ultrasound or X-rays to learn the location (and nature) of the obstruction.
Certain foreign objects can pass on their own with enough time. When it comes to an intestinal blockage timeline in dogs, though, time is critical. If the object does not pass on its own and your dog exhibits any of the above symptoms, get them treated quickly.
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.
Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery Recovery Timeline
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 critical period for your dog after surgery is the first 72 hours. If the patient is doing well after 72 hours, they should recover, but there are still some risks:
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 (also known as an e-collar or Elizabethan collar) 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 is a painful procedure. Your dog will not feel pain during the surgery, but he or she will almost certainly feel pain afterward. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication for your dog following surgery. Follow the instructions to keep your dog's pain under control and ward off infections.
Anesthesia can cause nausea in some dogs, and it is not uncommon for dogs to vomit. If necessary, your vet may also prescribe medications to ease 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 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).
Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery: Cost
If your dog needs intestinal blockage surgery, the cost will vary from clinic to clinic and from pet to pet. This is because several different factors contribute to the final cost.
This can be the location of the clinic and the expertise of the practitioner as well as the type of equipment used. The age and breed of your pet also play a role in the final amount that you will pay.
Please speak with your vet to discuss the estimate of the cost for your pet and a breakdown of the bill.
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.