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Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery - What You Need to Know

Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery - What You Need to Know

Keep an eye out for intestinal blockages in your pet if they have a habit of eating things they shouldn't. Our veterinarians in La Pine often see this issue, and it can be life-threatening. Learn about the causes, signs, and surgical intervention in our article.

How Dog Intestinal Blockages Happen

It is common for dogs to experience bowel obstructions, which occur when their stomach or intestines become partially or completely blocked. This can lead to various complications, including the prevention of food and water passing through their GI tract and a decrease in blood flow. In fact, an intestinal blockage can even be fatal for a dog within 3-7 days. These blockages can happen at any point in the digestive tract.

Some may be able to pass into the esophagus but not the stomach, while others may pass into the stomach but not the intestines or become lodged in the twists and turns of a dog's intestines. Foreign bodies are the most common cause of bowel obstructions in dogs, as they may swallow unexpected items like toys, trash, socks, or underwear. String, yarn, and rope fibers also pose a significant risk to dogs, as they can cause intestinal twisting. In older dogs, masses or tumors are other types of bowel obstructions to be aware of.

Dog Intestinal Blockage Timeline

Pet owners often wonder if dogs can die from intestinal blockage. Sadly, the answer is yes. Ignoring an intestinal blockage can cause severe damage to the intestines, leading to tissue death, bowel rupture, or perforation. Without timely treatment, a dog with a complete intestinal blockage will likely pass away within 3-4 days.

Although some foreign objects may eventually pass naturally, it is crucial to act quickly when dealing with intestinal blockage in dogs. If your dog shows symptoms and the object does not pass, immediate treatment is necessary.

Emergency surgery may be required when the foreign object poses an immediate danger. If your beloved pet displays any symptoms of dog intestinal blockage, seek urgent veterinary care.

Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

If your dog has an intestinal blockage, it may be difficult to recognize the symptoms as they can be similar to those of an upset stomach. However, it is crucial to contact your vet immediately if you notice any of the following signs, even if you did not witness your dog swallowing a foreign object.

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Painful abdomen to the touch
  • Whining
  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Restlessness
  • 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 happen to catch your dog eating something foreign, it's understandable to want to help them pass the obstruction. However, it's important to seek veterinary care instead of attempting to do so on your own. Your vet will conduct a physical examination, with particular attention to the abdomen, and may perform blood work to assess your dog's overall health and determine the extent of the blockage.

Your dog will then be taken to the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and other imaging techniques to locate the foreign object. One possible method is an endoscopy, which involves inserting a small tube with a camera through your dog's throat and into their stomach while under sedation.

Treatments For Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

When it comes to treating intestinal obstructions, the approach can either be surgical or non-surgical. The decision-making process is influenced by several factors such as the location of the obstruction, how long the object has been lodged, as well as the size, shape, and structure of the object. Sometimes, a veterinarian may employ an endoscope to extract the foreign object. If that is not feasible, an ultrasound or X-ray may be utilized to identify the location and nature of the obstruction.

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)

Following your dog's surgery and hospitalization, it is important to closely monitor their activity level and keep it very low. Short walks are recommended for at least a week to avoid any risk of sutures tearing. Your dog will also need to wear a cone to prevent them from chewing on the healing incision. 

Feeding your dog small amounts of bland food is highly recommended during this time, gradually transitioning back to their previous diet. It is also important to ensure your dog is getting enough fluids to prevent dehydration. 

It is common for dogs to experience discomfort after major surgery, and your veterinary surgeon will prescribe post-surgery pain medication for your dog. Following the prescription instructions carefully will effectively manage your dog's pain at home and prevent infections. 

Some dogs may feel nauseated after surgery due to the anesthesia, and vomiting is also common. Your vet may prescribe medication to relieve nausea and vomiting if needed.

Intestinal Blockage Surgery Cost

The expenses associated with intestinal blockage surgery for dogs can significantly differ based on the complexity of the surgery, the duration of the obstruction, the duration of the hospitalization, and additional factors such as your dog's overall health, age, and geographical location. To obtain an exact estimate of the cost of your dog's intestinal blockage surgery, it is advisable to communicate with your veterinarian or veterinary surgeon.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

The best way to prevent intestinal blockages in your dog is to limit their chances of ingesting non-food material.

  • 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.

If you've seen your dog swallowing something they shouldn't or if they're displaying signs of an intestinal blockage, reach out to our emergency vets at La Pine Animal Hospital immediately for urgent help.

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We are accepting new patients to our La Pine vet clinic. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all pets in Central Oregon. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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