Intussusception in Dogs

Intussusception in dogs can be a life threatening condition if it isn't treated. Dogs with intussusception usually need surgery to correct their condition. However, intussusception is largely preventable. Read on to learn more.

Intussusception in Dogs Explained

Intussusception occurs when the intestine telescopes in on itself. This can occur in either the large or the small intestine. As a result, the tissue of the intussusception can lose its blood supply and die. Death intussusception can occur rapidly, within a few days.

Causes and Risk Factors for Canine Intussusception 

Dogs of any breed can develop intussusception. The condition seems more common in puppies than in older dogs.

Causes of intussusception include intestinal worms, such as hookworms, whip worms and round worms. Intestinal blockage can cause intussusception, as can bacterial infection of the intestines. Abdominal tumors can cause intussusception, and dogs who have recently undergone abdominal surgery are more likely than others to develop it. 

Symptoms of Intussusception in Dogs

If the small intestine telescopes in on itself, your dog will suffer a partial or total blockage of the small intestine. He could begin vomiting and will likely stop moving his bowels once any stool left in the lower intestine has been passed. If your dog passes stool, it will be bloody, have a gel-like consistency, and may be loose. Your dog will suffer intense abdominal pain and will eventually go into shock and die unless he receives treatment.

If your dog suffers the more rare intussusception of the lower intestine, he could begin vomiting. His vomit may be dark in appearance and have a fecal aroma. Your dog will experience severe abdominal pain and swelling. He'll lose his appetite.

Your dog will need prompt treatment for intussusception if he is to survive this condition. When the intestines telescope in on themselves, then the intussuscepted portion loses its blood supply. Without an adequate blood supply, that portion of the intestines will die and begin to decay. The decaying tissue releases dangerous toxins into your dog's body, which can cause major organ failure and death within one or two days.

Diagnosing and Treating Intussusception in Dogs

Your vet will probably be able to make a diagnosis by palpitating your dog's abdomen during the physical exam. X-rays and abdominal ultrasounds can help your vet find the exact location of the intussusception. Exploratory surgery may be necessary.

Your dog will need surgery to correct his intussusception. If possible, your vet will try to slide the intussuscepted portion of the intestine back out of itself. Your vet may also simply remove the entire intussusception. Your vet will choose the best procedure based on the amount of damage your dog's intestinal tissues have sustained.

Most dogs recovery well from intussusception with appropriate surgical intervention. About 25% of dogs will have a recurrence of intussusception in the future. A surgery known as enteroplication can help keep your dog from suffering a recurrence of intussusception in the future.