Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Intestinal blockage, or bowel obstruction, in dogs is common; dogs are vulnerable to this condition because they aren't particularly picky about what they eat. Intestinal blockage may mean only a partial obstruction of the intestinal tract, or it could be a total obstruction of the intestines. Here's what you should know about this common dog health problem.

Reasons Why Dogs Experience Intestinal Blockage

Dogs love to chew on things, and are at higher risk than other animals for swallowing foreign objects that may be too big to pass. Some items, like sponge, may swell in the intestinal tract, making blockage more likely. Some items may be large and oddly shaped and get lodged in the intestines. Sharp objects may lacerate your dog's intestines.

Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Symptoms of intestinal blockage in dogs vary somewhat depending on where the blockage is located. Obstructions of the small intestine cause projectile vomiting. Obstructions of the large intestine, lower down in the intestinal tract, causes your dog to produce vomit that is dark brown in color and has an odor of stool. These is because your dog is vomiting up feces that can't pass through his intestinal tract due to blockage.

Dogs with intestinal blockage may be most likely to vomit after eating. Other symptoms of intestinal blockage in dogs include:

  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss and anorexia
  • diarrhea
  • weakness

Dogs with intestinal blockage may experience swelling of the abdomen and pain in the abdomen. Symptoms may appear intermittently, and partial obstructions may cause less severe symptoms than total obstructions. 

If intestinal blockage cuts off the flow of blood to any part of your dog's intestine, he could suffer from intestinal strangulation. When this occurs, part of your dog's intestine isn't getting any blood or oxygen, so it begins to deteriorate. Intestinal strangulation can cause death within a few hours.

Diagnosing and Treating Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Your vet will need a thorough physical exam and a complete medical history in order to diagnose intestinal blockage in dogs. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasounds can help your vet determine where a blockage might be located. They can also tell your vet if your dog has suffered internal damage, such as intestinal strangulation. 

Your dog will most likely need surgery to remove the obstruction. Your vet may administer antibiotics and other medications as needed, and he may give your dog IV fluid therapy to resolve any dehydration problems your dog may have developed as a result of vomiting and diarrhea. Your dog should refrain from activity and eat a bland diet during the recovery process.

You can help to prevent bowel obstruction in your dog by limiting his access to those objects he's most likely to chew up and swallow. If you know your dog likes to chew on things, try to keep those chewables out of his reach. Keep your dog away from garbage, dead animals and other possible hazards.