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Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

Intestinal Blockage in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Remedies and Treatment

Intestinal blockage in dogs is a life-threatening condition in which the small or large intestine is partially or completely obstructed. Blockages are intraluminal, intramural, or extramural. 

Foreign bodies, pyloric stenosis, intussusception, intestinal twisting, adhesions and strictures, intestinal parasites, hernias, and medication side effects cause intestinal blockages. 

Vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, lethargy, and weight loss are dog blockage symptoms. A dog throwing up bile indicates potential intestinal obstruction. 

The treatment of choice for intestinal blockage in dogs is abdominal surgery. Dogs are rarely able to eliminate foreign bodies that obstruct them without treatment. 

A dog stomach blockage home remedy, including high-fiber foods, hydration, light exercise, and herbs, is recommended when allowing dogs to pass foreign objects naturally. 

What is Intestinal Blockage in Dogs?

Intestinal blockage in dogs is partial or complete obstruction of the intestines. The blockage prevents food, fluid, and gas from passing through the digestive tract. 

The three main types of intestinal blockage in dogs are intraluminal, intramural, and extramural. Intraluminal obstruction is due to swallowed foreign objects. 

Intramural obstruction is caused by masses in the intestinal walls, such as abscesses or tumors. Hernias or adhesions outside the intestines trigger extramural obstruction. 

Partial blockage in dogs is less severe than complete obstruction. Obstructions digestive issues in dogs that warrant immediate veterinary attention. 

Intestinal blockage in dogs pressures the surrounding tissue, causing intestinal death (necrosis) and breaking (rupture), which leads to fatal sepsis. 

What are the Common Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs?

The common symptoms of intestinal blockage in dogs are listed below. 

  • Vomiting: Vomiting is a widespread issue in dogs with intestinal blockage. The vomit contains bile, which is bubbly or thick and goes from yellow to greenish. Intense and prolonged vomiting leads to dehydration. 
  • Constipation: Constipation is a common sign of intestinal obstruction in dogs. The dog attempts to defecate, squats, and strains, but it does not produce poop.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration is potentially fatal and manifests with loss of skin elasticity, dry nose, sunken eyes, and sticky saliva. 
  • Appetite Loss: The vomiting and pressure caused by the blockage impair the dog’s appetite, causing reduced or completely absent food intake. Dogs attempt to eat during the early phases but vomit soon afterward. 
  • Abdominal Pain: The blockage pressures the intestinal wall, causing severe pain. The stomach is painful, and the dog vocalizes if touched. 
  • Lethargy: Dehydration, combined with electrolyte loss and vomiting's debilitating effect, makes the dog lethargic and disinterested. 

How to tell if your Dog has an Intestinal Blockage?

You can tell your dog has an intestinal blockage based on symptoms such as vomiting and loss of appetite. Prolonged vomiting accompanied by loss of appetite and diarrhea or constipation warrant vet attention. 

Owners with curious dogs that love chewing on items must always be vigilant and suspect a foreign body ingestion when stomach upset signs occur. 

A veterinarian makes the definitive diagnosis after a detailed physical examination. The vet orders ultrasounds, X-rays, or endoscopic procedures to determine the blockage's presence. 

What Causes Intestinal Blockages in Dogs?

The causes of intestinal blockages in dogs are listed below. 

  • Foreign Bodies: “Intestinal foreign bodies are some of the most common causes of intestinal obstruction,” says a study, “Intestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs and Cats,” issued in Compendium on Continuing Education for The Practicing Veterinarian in 2003. Bones, toys, corn cobs, and clothing are retrieved from swallowed foreign bodies in dogs. 
  • Pyloric Stenosis: Pyloric stenosis is a narrowing of the passage where the stomach meets the small intestine. The stenosis is caused by a birth defect in puppies and by unknown causes in older dogs. 
  • Intussusception: Intussusception or telescoping is a life-threatening condition in which one intestinal segment folds or slips into another. Intussusceptions account for 12.77% of intestinal blockage cases in dogs, according to a study, “Clinical Cases of Intestinal Obstruction with Foreign Bodies and Intussusception in Dogs,” issued in the Japanese Journal of Veterinary Research in 1981. 
  • Intestinal Twisting: The intestines' twisting causes blockage. The two primary forms of twisting are torsion (twisting of the intestine around its long axis) and volvulus (twisting of the intestine around its mesenteric axis).  
  • Strictures and Adhesions: Strictures and adhesions cause partial blockages in dogs. Strictures are intestinal narrowing caused by scar tissue, and adhesions are scar tissue bands that result from previous surgeries. 
  • Intestinal Parasites: Heavy parasitic infestations cause clumps of parasites to float in the intestines, eventually blocking normal passage. Parasites obstruct themselves or provoke the intestines to fold into the adjacent section (intussusception). 
  • Hernias: Hernias in the abdominal cavity increase the risk of intestinal obstruction. The problem occurs when a portion of the intestines enters the hernia ring and gets stuck in the hernia sac. 
  • Medication Side Effects: Certain meds cause mechanical obstruction in some cases. “Multiple doses of activated charcoal granules can cause serious gastrointestinal obstruction in dogs,” according to a study “Gastrointestinal Obstruction Secondary to Activated Charcoal Granule Impaction in a Dog,” published in the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2020. 

How is the Intestinal Blockage in Dogs compared to Pancreatitis?

Intestinal blockage in dogs is compared to pancreatitis in certain symptoms and the urgent need for treatment. 

Blockage and inflammation of the pancreas cause vomiting and abdominal pain. The two issues are life-threatening unless promptly and aggressively treated. 

Intestinal blockages and pancreatitis differ in causes and treatment options. Blockages are due to foreign objects, intestinal twisting, or tumors, and pancreatitis is associated with fatty foods. 

The treatment for dog intestinal blockages is almost always surgical, while pancreatitis in dogs is managed with medications and dietary modifications. 

Can Dog Still Poop with Intestinal Blockage?

Yes, dogs can still poop with intestinal blockage. Dogs with partial intestinal blockage pass feces with difficulties. Water and liquids from the intestinal content are able to squeeze past the obstruction point. 

Dogs with complete intestinal obstruction are unable to poop. Some dogs squat and attempt to defecate with no success. Constipation is one of the hallmark signs of bowel obstruction in dogs

What are Some Effective Dog Stomach Blockage Home Remedies?

Some effective dog stomach blockage home remedies are listed below. 

  • High-Fiber Food: High-fiber foods are given if the vet determines there is no need for traditional treatment and the dog is able to eliminate the foreign body. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and bran are excellent sources of dietary fiber for dogs. 
  • Healthy Hydration: Keeping the dog hydrated is critical. Provide fresh drinking water to promote hydration. Dogs with obstruction lose water through vomiting and diarrhea.  
  • Light Exercise: Gently exercise the dog to promote better gut motility, which is vital for the natural passage of the obstruction-causing object. Practice short but frequent walks. 
  • Certain Herbs: Herbs, such as ginger, do not act directly on the obstruction but help soothe the stomach. Dogs with partial, non-urgent intestinal blockage suffer from abdominal pain, and ginger’s natural soothing properties are beneficial. 

What are the Signs of a Partial Blockage in Dogs?

The signs of a partial blockage in dogs are listed below. 

  • Loss of Appetite: Dogs with partial obstruction are reluctant to eat or do not eat at all (anorexia) because of the pressure caused by the blockage. 
  • Abdominal Pain: The blockage pressurizes the intestinal walls, causing pain. The dog is extra sensitive and dislikes having its belly touched. 
  • Diarrhea: Dogs with partial intestinal obstruction have diarrhea because the watery part of the stool is able to squeeze between the blockage point and the intestinal wall. 
  • Weight Loss: Long-term anorexia or reduced appetite leads to significant weight loss in dogs with partial intestinal obstruction. 

How Long Can a Dog Live with an Intestinal Blockage?

A dog can live for three to four days with an intestinal blockage. Untreated dogs with complete obstruction, in most cases, diet within three or four days. 

Emergency surgery is warranted for dogs with intestinal blockages. Intestinal obstruction cuts off the blood supply to a part of the intestine, resulting in tissue death. The result is perforation and fatal infection. 

Can Probiotics Help Treat Intestinal Blockages in Dogs?

No, probiotics cannot help treat intestinal blockages in dogs. The majority of intestinal blockage cases require surgical treatments. 

Probiotics are helpful for dogs that are prescribed antibiotics to prevent infections after surgical treatment. Antibiotics act against bacteria but are unable to differentiate between good and bad bacteria, destroying the beneficial gut microbiota. 

Probiotics are given to restore the good bacteria in the gut. The dog probiotics are administered several hours apart from the antibiotics to prevent destruction. 

What are the Best Probiotics for Dogs with Digestive Issues?

The best probiotics for dogs with digestive issues are listed below. 

  • Honest Paws Pre + Probiotics: A powdered formula featuring five billion CFUs and high-quality dietary fiber. The supplement has a delicious chicken flavor and comes in pre-measured single-dose sachets for easy use.  
  • Purina FortiFlora Probiotics: A single-strain (Enterococcus faecium) probiotic with a tasty beef flavor. The supplement was the number one vet-recommended probiotic in 2019 and is available in individual sachets. 
  • Open Farm Probiotic Chews: Probiotic soft chews containing seven probiotic strains enriched with ginger and pumpkin. The ingredients in the probiotic are 100% traceable, and the soft chew form makes them fit for dogs of all ages. 
  • PetLab Co. Probiotics for Dogs: Soft chews made with eight strains of live, beneficial bacteria and superfoods like agave, honey, and salmon oil. The chews are pork-flavored and one of the best probiotics for dogs

What are the Treatments for Intestinal Blockage in Dogs?

The treatments for intestinal blockage in dogs are listed below. 

  • Explorative Laparotomy: Explorative laparotomy is an abdominal surgery in which the veterinary surgeon opens the dog’s abdomen and searches for the cause of the intestinal blockage. A previous X-ray image helps the vet narrow down the search. 
  • Enterotomy: Enterotomy is the procedure in which the intestine is cut to remove the cause of the blockage and then carefully sutured to prevent leakage. 
  • Resection and Anastomosis: Resection and anastomosis are performed when the intestinal walls around the blockage are damaged. The vet removes the damaged section and the obstruction and sutures the two intestinal ends together. 
  • Endoscopy: Endoscopy is a less invasive approach recommended for dogs with cranial intestinal blockages in the upper parts of the small intestine. The vet inserts a tube with a camera and a grasping tool through the dog’s mouth and stomach into the intestines. 
  • Supportive Care: Supportive care for dogs with intestinal blockage includes intravenous fluids and symptomatic therapy. Antibiotics are an important part of supportive care and are used to prevent infections. 

How does Vomiting Bile Indicate a Blockage in Dogs?

Vomiting bile indicates a blockage in dogs because of interrupted food digestion. The presence of an intestinal blockage disables the processing of food into waste. 

The liver is unaware of the blockage and keeps producing bile, which is eventually vomited. The bile in the vomit appears as a yellow, foamy substance or a thick, sticky liquid. The bile color is variable and goes from shades of yellow to greenish. 

Can Intestinal Blockages in Dogs Resolve Without Surgery?

Yes, intestinal blockages in dogs can resolve without surgery. Dogs, in some cases, are able to poop out foreign bodies on their own with surgical intervention. 

The need for surgery is determined based on the dog’s size and state and the size and location of the foreign object causing the obstruction. 

Other causes of intestinal blockages, like twisting, intussusceptions, and tumors, do not resolve without surgery. Intestinal obstruction surgeries are complex, and dogs need long postoperative recoveries.  

Can Intestinal Blockages Cause Bloating in Dogs?

Yes, intestinal blockages can cause bloating in dogs. Blockages obstruct normal food passage, and food that is cranial to the blockage point ferments, releasing gasses. 

The gasses accumulate and cause bloating. The bloat is simple and must not be confused with gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). GDV in dogs occurs when the dog’s stomach bloats and twists clockwise on its axis. 

What are the Risks of a Dog Dying from Intestinal Blockage?

The risks of a dog dying from intestinal blockage are listed below. 

  • Intestinal Necrosis: The blockage point pressures the walls of the intestines. Long-term pressure causes the intestinal tissue to die or become necrotic. 
  • Intestinal Perforation: Necrotic tissue is fragile and thin, making it susceptible to breaking or perforation. A perforating bowel leaks intestinal content into the abdomen.  
  • Peritonitis: The leaked intestinal content causes peritonitis (infection of the peritoneum). The peritoneum is the serous membrane lining the dog’s abdominal cavity. 
  • Sepsis: The infection spreads, causing sepsis (systemic infection) in which vital organs like the lungs, liver, or kidneys shut down and cause septic shock. 

When Should You Seek Veterinary Care for a Dog with Blockage Symptoms?

You should seek veterinary care for a dog with blockage symptoms immediately. Call the vet as soon as obstruction symptoms become apparent. 

The symptoms of intestinal blockage vary based on the severity and location of the obstruction. Indicators to watch for include vomiting, refusal to eat or drink, and restlessness.

Dog intestinal blockage is a progressive and fatal condition. Prompt and adequate vet care is required to stabilize the dog and resolve the obstruction. 

Is the Intestinal Blockage and Constipation the same?

No, intestinal blockage and constipation are not the same. Intestinal blockage is a condition, while constipation is a symptom of blockage. 

Dogs with intestinal blockages exhibit constipation as a main symptom. Constipation is defined as hard or uncomfortable and infrequent bowel movements. Long-term constipation progresses to obstipation or complete inability to defecate.