Canine Intestinal Obstruction

Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

When a dog consumes a toy or other non-food item, the indigestible substance may become trapped in the digestive tract and result in a blockage of the intestinal tract. Tumors or other physical anomalies might also cause this issue. Intestinal blockage is risky since it might lead to an infection or rupture. While some clogs may disappear on their own, many will need to be surgically removed.

What Is Intestinal Obstruction?

An intestinal obstruction occurs when a dog's intestines are completely or partially blocked. Similar to blocked pipes, these obstructions impede the dog from transporting food and waste through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract because they interfere with digestion and intestinal motility. While a partial obstruction permits the dog to pass some gas and feces, if left untreated, it will eventually cause damage to the intestines.

Untreated, a total GI blockage is a medical emergency that can quickly result in death. The likelihood that the obstruction may impede blood flow and cause intestinal tissues to necrotize (die) increases the longer it is left in place. Bacterial infections might arise, and the dog could potentially experience internal bleeding if the intestines perforated.

Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Depending on the reason, blockage symptoms might change. Initial indicators of a partial blockage in a dog may be modest, mimicking a normal stomach ache. Without medical intervention, these symptoms might get worse over several days. Full blockage will cause significant discomfort and more immediate symptoms.


  • , often frequently
  • (if there is a partial blockage)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Malnutrition

Each sign of intestinal blockage includes gastrointestinal discomfort and the series of issues that develop when the GI tract is not operating properly. A bloated abdomen brought on by fluid and fecal retention will initially be accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Due to pain, a dog may become sluggish and unhappy; if the blockage continues or becomes worse, dehydration and malnutrition may follow.

Causes of Intestinal Obstruction

The consumption of a foreign body is the most frequent cause of intestinal blockage in dogs. Some dogs will consume the most bizarre items, including toys, bones, corn cobs, even clothes (especially socks and underwear). Sharp items have the potential to pierce or obstruct the GI tract's lining, leading to life-threatening internal bleeding. In the same manner that a drawstring cinches a hood or waistline, strings, rope, and similar objects can generate a linear foreign body, an obstruction that can force portions of the intestines to bunch together. Gastric acids are often unable to completely dissolve or digest many foreign substances. If you notice your dog eating something that can create a blockage, call your veterinarian straight once.

Intestinal blockages may occur for reasons other than foreign body ingestion, including:

  • Tumors: A growth or mass inside the intestines can gradually decrease motility and eventually grow large enough to cause a blockage. A tumor in the abdomen may grow large enough to put pressure on the intestines, blocking them from the outside.
  • Intussusception: This condition occurs when the intestines fold into themselves in a telescopic manner. Foreign bodies and tumors can lead to intussusception, but other potential causes include infections, , and dietary changes. may also occur as a complication after intestinal surgery.
  • Pyloric stenosis: This narrowing of the passage from the stomach to the small intestine can lead to a GI obstruction. Pyloric stenosis may be caused by a congenital abnormality (birth defect) or may develop over time in older dogs for reasons unknown.

Diagnosing Canine Intestinal Obstruction

If you see symptoms in your dog that could indicate intestinal blockage, it's critical to call a veterinarian very soon. Allowing mild to severe symptoms to persist for more than one to two days might cause irreparable harm. A dog exhibiting serious symptoms has to be transported right away to the closest emergency veterinary clinic.

Before advising any tests, your veterinarian will check your dog and go over its medical history. An abdominal x-ray is taken next to check for any abnormalities if a GI blockage is suspected. The canine must consume a radiopaque material that will show up on soft tissue x-rays. Barium, a white liquid that appears dazzling white on film, is usually the chemical in question. To track the motion of the contrast as it passes through the GI tract, a series of timed x-rays are obtained. This enables the veterinarian to see how the GI system is moving and locate the obstruction.

It may also be necessary to do blood and urine tests to evaluate organ and blood cell function. These tests assist your dog's doctor in determining the best course of treatment and evaluating the dog's general health.

Treatment and Prognosis

To return GI function to normal, the majority of GI blockages must be eliminated. An exploratory laparotomy, a type of abdominal surgery, is frequently used to do this. The veterinarian will open the abdomen, find the obstruction, and get rid of it. The veterinarian will then check the intestinal tissue to see whether any long-term harm has been done. The veterinarian might have to remove a portion of the intestine if there is damage. The intestine is then meticulously stitched shut to promote healing and stop leaking.

An endoscopy may be useful in eliminating the obstruction if it is in the upper duodenum of the small intestine. The vet may be able to access the upper duodenum through the pylorus, the sphincter between the stomach and small intestine, using this method, which is far less intrusive than surgery. A mechanical tube containing a tiny camera is inserted through the dog's mouth and into the esophagus while it is sedated. In order to remove or sample the impediment, special instruments can be passed via the scope. If a foreign body is discovered, the veterinarian may be able to grab it with a tool and remove it using the endoscope.

Some intestinal obstructions will dissolve on their own, negating the need for endoscopy or surgery. To completely heal, some canines could need require supporting care. Your dog will probably receive fluids for rehydration from your veterinarian along with drugs to calm the GI system and stop infection.

Prognosis for a Dog with Intestinal Obstruction

A dog should recover fast and return to full health if the blockage can be easily removed and the intestines sustain little harm. Depending on the specific circumstances, more severe blockages with complications or the presence of a tumor may entail a varied prognosis.

How to Prevent Intestinal Obstruction

By preventing your dog from ingesting foreign materials, keep harmful objects out of reach. Make sure that the toys are too big to ingest. Make sure your dog only has toys under your direct watch if they want to chew them up and devour them. Do not let your dog around rubbish. When outdoors, keep a constant eye on your dog. Laundry should be kept in a closed container. Keep goods out of reach if you are aware that your dog enjoys eating them.

It may not be possible to avoid tumors and other intestinal problems, but early identification can save partial blockages from becoming full obstructions. Additionally, it might lessen the harm done to the intestines. As soon as symptoms arise, be careful to call your veterinarian.

As advised by your veterinarian, schedule a routine wellness examination at the vet's office once a year or more. It's possible that during the examination, your veterinarian will discover a problem that you are not yet aware of.