Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Is your dog prone to chewing and eating anything that comes its way? If this is the case, you may be concerned about bowel obstruction. Our Mechanicsburg veterinarians explain what bowel obstructions are and why it's critical to get this serious condition treated as soon as possible in this blog.

The Causes of Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

Intestinal blockages are another term for bowel obstructions. When a dog's stomach or intestines become partially or completely blocked, they frequently develop. Obstructions can cause a variety of problems, such as preventing food and water from passing through your dog's GI tract, which reduces blood flow. In dogs, bowel obstructions can be fatal within 3-7 days.

Obstructions can occur anywhere along the digestive tract of a dog. Some may pass through the esophagus but not through the stomach. Others may pass through the stomach but not the intestines, or become lodged in the intestines' intricate twists and turns.

Foreign bodies are the most common cause of bowel obstructions. Every dog has the potential to swallow unexpected items like underwear, socks, dish towels, and toys. String, yarn, and rope fibers are particularly dangerous to dogs because they can twist their intestines. Other common bowel obstructions to watch for in older dogs are masses or tumors.

The Signs & Symptoms of Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

How do you know if your dog has a bowel obstruction? Here are some common symptoms and signs of intestinal blockages in dogs:

  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
  • Restlessness
  • Dehydration
  • Bloating
Unless you've seen your dog swallow a foreign object, it's easy to dismiss the symptoms above as just an upset stomach. However, if you suspect your dog has eaten something suspicious or is exhibiting the symptoms listed above, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Diagnosing Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

If you saw your dog eat a foreign object, you might be wondering how you can help your dog pass the obstruction, but you should not attempt this on your own, your dog needs veterinary care.

Your dog will be examined by your veterinarian first, with special attention paid to the abdomen. They may also take blood tests to see if the blockage is affecting your dog's overall health.

From there, your dog will be taken to the in-house diagnostic lab for X-rays and any other imaging techniques needed to try and see the foreign object. One such test is an endoscopy, a procedure that inserts a small tube with a tiny attached camera through your dog’s throat and into the stomach. Your dog would be sedated for this procedure.

Treatment for Bowel Obstruction in Dogs

For bowel obstructions, surgical and non-surgical treatments are available. When deciding which type of treatment to use, many factors must be considered, including the location of the blockage, the length of time the object has been stuck, and the size, shape, and structure of the object.

An endoscope can sometimes be used to remove the foreign object. If this isn't possible, your veterinarian will most likely need to use ultrasound or X-rays to determine the location (and nature) of the obstruction.

Some foreign objects will fade away over time. When it comes to an intestinal blockage timeline in dogs, however, time is of the essence. If the object does not pass on its own and your dog exhibits the symptoms listed above, he or she will require immediate treatment.

Your vet will order surgery if they determine that the foreign object presents an immediate danger.

Bowel Obstruction Surgery for Dogs

Bowel obstruction surgery is a major procedure for dogs, and your pooch will have to be anesthetized. After the surgery, your dog will need to stay at the hospital for a few days to recover.

Your veterinarian will make an incision in your dog's abdomen near the blockage site for the intestinal surgery and carefully remove the object. Because they may need to repair any damage to the stomach or intestinal wall caused by the obstruction, the surgery can take a long time.

Your dog’s survival after surgery to remove an intestinal blockage depends on a few things:

  • The health of your dog before the surgery
  • Size, shape, and location of the foreign object
  • How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines

Your veterinarian will use the physical exam and diagnostic tests performed before your dog's surgery to gain a better understanding of how well your dog will recover after surgery. The faster the surgery can be completed, however, the better.

Dogs Recovery After Bowel Obstruction 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, keep an eye on your dog and limit their activity. Only take them for short walks for at least a week—you don't want their sutures to tear. Your dog will also need to wear a cone while the incision heals to prevent them from licking or chewing it.

It's critical to feed your dog small amounts of bland food at first, then gradually transition them to their regular diet. You must also make certain that they are getting enough fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

Major surgery is excruciatingly painful. Your dog will not be in pain during the surgery, but he or she will most likely be in pain afterward. Your veterinarian will prescribe pain medication for your dog after surgery. To manage your dog's pain at home and prevent infections, it's critical that you carefully follow your veterinarian's prescription instructions.

After surgery, anesthesia can make some dogs feel nauseated, and it's not uncommon for them to vomit. As a result, if necessary, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to alleviate your dog's nausea and vomiting.

The Cost of Surgery

The cost of your dog's intestinal blockage surgery will be determined by the extent of the procedure, the length of time the obstruction has been present, the length of time your pup will be in the hospital, and other factors.

Preventing Bowel Obstructions 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 their 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 their 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.

Do suspect your dog may have a bowel obstruction? Contact our Mechanicsburg vets immediately to arrange an urgent care appointment. For after-hours assistance visit the emergency veterinary clinic closest to you.

New Patients Welcome

Looking for a vet in Mechanicsburg PA? Silver Springs Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our skilled veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of Central Pennsylvania companion animals. Contact us today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(717) 766-5980 Contact