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Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery

Dogs will chew on anything they get their paws on, putting them at a high risk of swallowing potentially dangerous items. This increases the likelihood of a life-threatening blockage. In this article, our vets in Jackson outline key signs of intestinal blockages in dogs and explain why opting for surgery may be the most effective solution.

How Dog Intestinal Blockages Happen

All dogs, regardless of age, breed, or size, face the risk of intestinal obstruction. This obstruction may be partial or complete, potentially leading to complications such as hindering the passage of food and water through the GI tract and reducing blood flow. Fatal complications can arise within 3-7 days.

Your dog's digestive tract is susceptible to obstruction in any section. Some items may enter the esophagus but not reach the stomach, while others may reach the stomach but not progress to the intestines. Certain items can become lodged in the intricate twists and turns of a dog's intestines.

Bowel obstructions most commonly result from foreign bodies. Dogs are prone to swallowing various items, including trash, toys, dish towels, underwear, socks, rope, and more. Yarn, string, and rope fibers pose a particular hazard, potentially causing the intestines to twist. Older dogs may be more prone to tumor obstructions rather than foreign objects.

Dog Intestinal Blockage Timeline

Can a dog die from intestinal blockage? The answer is, unfortunately, yes.

If left untreated, an intestinal blockage can press against the intestinal wall, causing damage and potentially leading to tissue death. It may also result in bowel perforation or rupture. Dogs with complete intestinal blockage typically succumb within 3 - 4 days without proper treatment.

While some intestinal blockages can pass on their own, time is crucial when estimating the timeline for resolution in dogs. Prompt treatment is essential if your dog doesn't pass the object naturally and exhibits symptoms outlined in this post.

Emergency surgery will be necessary if your veterinarian identifies an immediate danger from the foreign object.

Seek emergency veterinary care if your dog displays any of the common symptoms of intestinal blockage listed below.

Dog Intestinal Blockage Symptoms

How can you be sure if your dog has an intestinal blockage? It can be easy to brush off symptoms of intestinal blockages as merely an upset stomach unless you witness your dog swallowing a foreign object. 

That said, we recommend contacting your vet immediately if you see the signs of an intestinal blockage in your dog.

  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Bloating
  • Restlessness
  • Whining
  • Aggressive behavior when touching the stomach
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Painful abdomen to the touch
  • Vomiting 

If you suspect your dog has ingested something they shouldn't have or they are displaying symptoms listed above, call your veterinarian as soon as possible or contact your nearest animal emergency center.

Diagnosing Dog Intestinal Blockages

If your dog swallows something they shouldn't, your first instinct might be to help them safely pass the object. However, you can't do much alone; immediate veterinary guidance is crucial.

The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical exam, focusing on the stomach area. They may also perform blood work to assess the impact of the blockage on your dog's overall health.

Subsequently, the vet may recommend diagnostic imaging and tests to determine the size and location of the object. An example is an endoscopy—a procedure that involves inserting a small tube with a tiny camera through your dog's throat and into the stomach. Your dog will be sedated for this procedure.

Treatments For Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Treating your dog for an intestinal blockage involves considering surgical and non-surgical options. The decision hinges on factors such as the object's location, duration of obstruction, and its size, shape, and structure.

Sometimes, a vet can use an endoscope to retrieve the foreign object. If this approach doesn't yield the required information, your vet will request additional forms of diagnostic imaging for further assistance.

Intestinal Blockage Surgery for Dogs

If your dog requires intestinal blockage surgery, your vet will administer anesthesia. After completing the procedure, they will monitor your dog, and the duration of observation will depend on your dog's recovery.

During the intestinal surgery, your vet will make an incision near the blockage site in your dog's abdomen and skillfully remove the object. The surgery duration may vary as they may also need to address any damage to the stomach or intestinal wall caused by the obstruction.

Your dog's post-surgery outcome hinges on several factors, including:

  • 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 completed, 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)

After surgery and hospitalization, monitor your dog and keep their activity level very low. Stick to short walks for at least a week — you don't want their sutures to tear. Your dog will also need to wear a cone to keep them from chewing on the healing incision.

It's important to feed your dog small amounts of bland food before gradually transitioning to his previous diet during this time. Also, make sure they are getting enough fluids to prevent dehydration.

Major pet surgery is painful. Your dog won't be in pain during the surgery but will probably feel some discomfort afterward. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe post-surgery pain medication for your dog. Follow the prescription instructions carefully to effectively manage your dog's pain at home and fight off infections.

Anesthesia can make some dogs feel nauseated after surgery, and it's actually common for dogs to vomit afterward. So, your vet may also prescribe medications to relieve your dog's nausea and vomiting, if needed.

Intestinal Blockage Surgery Cost

The cost of dog intestinal blockage surgery varies based on factors like the surgery's extent, the duration of the obstruction, hospital stay length, and your dog's overall health, age, and location. For an accurate cost estimate, consult your vet or veterinary surgeon.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

To prevent your dog from eating anything that is not food, you should consider a few things, such as:

  • 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 they are 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.

Did your dog or cat swallow something that could potentially cause a blockage? Contact our Jackson vets during regular hours or your nearest emergency clinic after hours.

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