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What is Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility)?

Motility in relation to the gastrointestinal tract refers to the ability of food and digested material to move smoothly from one end to the other. A loss of motility or obstruction can occur at any point. Since the channels of the small intestine are smaller, this is a common place for smaller objects or indigestible material to become stuck. Loss of motility in the intestines is called ileus. It results in irregular or difficult defecation, sometimes with other symptoms such as vomiting or abdominal distention. In dogs, this condition is often due to a physical obstruction. It may also occur after abdominal surgery, or as the result of a metabolic condition which affects the nerves and muscles of the digestive tract. Even conditions like this will result in some degree of physical obstruction, as obstipation (hardening of unpassed feces) further blocks the colon. Most problems are reversible with medical treatment or surgery depending on the cause.

Dogs can sometimes experience difficulty passing regular bowel movements. Veterinarians define this condition as ileus or loss of intestinal motility. It has a variety of causes, most of which are treatable.

Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$1,600

Symptoms of Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

Straining to pass feces is never a good sign. The longer the time between bowel movements, the harder the stool will become, and extreme untreated constipation will eventually be fatal. You should see a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog:

  • Struggling to have a bowel movement
  • Reluctant to have a bowel movement
  • Constipation
  • Thin ribbon like stool
  • Absence of intestinal noise
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distention
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Palpable lump of unpassed fecal matter in the abdomen

Types

 

Loss of intestinal motility generally falls into one of two categories:

  • Mechanical – blockage created by physical obstruction
  • Functional – nerve failure or weakness in the bowel muscles

In dogs, physical blockage is generally more common due to their tendency to eat indigestible objects such as bones, fur, or even toys.

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Causes of Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

Many different problems can decrease intestinal motility:

  • Difficult to digest material (such as bone or hair)
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Foreign body
  • Tumor
  • Stricture – constricted or thickened band of intestinal muscles
  • Recent surgery
  • Poorly healed fracture
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Drugs including opioids and antihistamines
  • Poisoning
  • Metabolic disorder - hypothyroidism, hypokalemia, and hypercalcemia

  • Dysautonomia – neural degeneration disease
  • Lesion on the spinal cord
  • Idiopathic (unknown cause)
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Diagnosis of Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination. In many cases, hard unpassed feces can be felt in the abdomen during examination. The veterinarian will likely also take an X-ray or ultrasound of your dog’s abdomen to check for a foreign body. Many objects can be detected on a radiograph; even if the object itself is not visible, increased dilation of some intestinal loops may indicate its presence. X-ray’s may also show tumors, strictures, and other abnormalities. If the object is difficult to detect on a radiograph, exploratory may be necessary.

As well as evaluating physical obstruction, the veterinarian will take bloodwork to look for metabolic abnormalities. This will show conditions such as hypothyroidism or hypokalemia, and may further indicate the presence of cancer if the radiograph is inconclusive. For serious constipation with no obvious cause, the veterinarian will also evaluate nerve and motor function with an emphasis on areas of the spinal cord which control the bowel muscles.

The exact symptoms that your dog is exhibiting may help to indicate the cause. Keeping a careful record of your dog’s bowel habits may aid the vet in ascertaining if there is a serious problem. If you’ve noticed your dog eating anything unusual lately, or chewing on small toys this could also be relevant. The veterinarian will also want to know your dog’s medical history and the dates of any recent surgery.

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Treatment of Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

Mild constipation will likely be treated with medication and diet change. Various laxatives or suppositories are available, and the veterinarian will determine the one most appropriate for your dog. A fiber supplement may also be added to your dog’s diet. For mild post-surgery ileus, or poor diet and lack of fluids, this will often be effective. Long term, severe constipation can lead to dehydration so the vet might need to treat this with medication or IV fluids.

 If there is a sign of physical obstruction from a foreign body, tumor or stricture, this will require surgery. Badly healed fractures can sometimes also be corrected with surgery. There is a certain amount of risk with any surgery, but foreign body removal is usually successful. If there is a tumor it will depend on the degree of metastasis. Your dog will likely need to spend several days after surgery in the hospital and there will be a 2 to 3 week recovery period after he returns home.

If the condition was caused by a metabolic imbalance, your dog will need medication for this as well as laxatives to clear the blocked stool. The veterinarian will try to find the underlying cause for the condition. This could be due to poor nutrition, glandular dysfunction, or cancer. 

If a degenerative neural problem is causing your dog’s ileus, this may also be treated or ameliorated with medication. The prognosis for this kind of condition is not usually good, however.

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Recovery of Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

The chances for recovery from ileus are high, depending on the severity of the condition and the length of time it has progressed. Most laxatives will be discontinued once your dog has started to have regular bowel movements, but if problems recur, long term medication could be necessary. The vet may recommend a different brand of dog food, or you may need to continue fiber supplements.

Most foreign objects are removed surgically without any recurring problem. It might be advisable to monitor your dog’s access to small objects which can be swallowed, if possible, to avoid any future problems. Your dog will need several post-surgery check-ups for monitoring, but otherwise he should be fine.

If the vet discovers that your dog’s loss of motility was due to another underlying disease this may pose more of a problem. Cancer can often be fatal, and neural degeneration diseases usually eventually require euthanasia. These conditions are rare however, and most forms of constipation are treatable.

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Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$1,600

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Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Thor

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Mastiff

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Possible Constipation

I have a Mastiff that is 1.5years old. He just had a pyloric sphincter obstruction that was diagnosed with EGD. overnight stay in vet. I brought him home and he's on a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice. 3 small meals per day with Reglan. He has had one stool since coming home, none in the last 24hrs. first and only stool was loose and had blood streaked mucus. Is this normal for him to not have stools post EGD? he's still not quite himself since we came home. He has also had a gastropexy at age 20weeks.

July 10, 2018

Thor's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Depending on how long Thor went without eating, or was vomiting, it may take some time for intestinal content to buildup again and for him to start having normal bowel movements. I don't know how long he has been eating, or home, but if it has been a couple of days, you may be fine to monitor him, and if he isn't straining, is eating and seems comfortable, he may just need a little more time. If he is straining to defecate, or seems uncomfortable, it would be a good idea to have a recheck for him.

July 10, 2018

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Bruiser

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Beagle

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Our dog started vomiting one week ago hours after eating his kibble. We switched him over to boiled chicken and rice and the vomiting stopped. Yesterday we added small amounts of his kibble into the chicken and rice and the vomited started again. Anywhere from 5-10 hours after eating and the kibble is undigested. We went through a horrible time with testing and vet visits when we lost our cocker spaniel a few years ago and we don’t want to put Bruiser through the same thing. I have a feeling he’s getting close to his time and don’t want to drag him into the vet for all kinds of testing just to get the it may be time speech when he could just be comfortable at home and we call when we feel it’s time. I would appreciate any feedback or advice keeping his age in mind. Thank you.

Feb. 15, 2018

Bruiser's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Whilst it is important to determine whether the issue is dietary or medical, I certainly understand that Bruiser is getting on in years and you don’t want to test him to the grave; I would look at trying him with a limited ingredient diet to see if that helps, if not you should stick with the boiled chicken and rice but it is not a diet for the long term. Without examining him and doing tests, I cannot recommend anything else. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 15, 2018

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Bella

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Standard Poodle

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation

My Standard Poodle swallowed a lapel pin at 9 weeks old and required surgery to remove it from her stomach. All seemed fine until she was about 5 years old. She was eating Purina Pro dog food. One day I noticed she didn't have any stool and called the vet. she was diagnosed with severe constipation and needed medical intervention. She was treated with IV fluids, enema and thought life would go on as normal. Unfortunately the constipation continued so we were advised to change to Science Diet w/d. And although it has helped with her chronic constipation problem, she doesn't like this food. She is 13 now and is in excellent health. Her stools is still not normal look like meat balls and seems difficult for her to pass at times. Is there something we can add to her diet that would help create more moisture to the colon and allow her stool to look more normal? I have been told that most dog food has too many products that a dog's digestive system can't digest and need to find foods that are more meat oriented. I would like her last years to be enjoyable and looking for foods/supplements that will help her enjoy eating and not struggle to push out the stool.

Jan. 13, 2018

Bella's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining Bella, I can't recommend any change in her diet to change her stool consistency, but it is common for older dogs to need different fiber in their diet. Fiber sources that are commonly used include canned pumpkin (not the pie filling, the pure pumpkin), and Metamucil. It would be a good idea to give your veterinarian a call and see if either of those would be appropriate for Bella with her current health status. They can give you an idea as to quantity as well, if they are appropriate, since I do not know Bella's weight. I hope that helps, and that she does well!

Jan. 13, 2018

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Sissy

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West Highland White Terrier

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11

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea, Lethargy

My dog had a mass removed from her Bowles which took 60% of the track with it. That was a week ago and her poop just shoots out of her like a garden hose how can i stop it

July 26, 2017

Sissy's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

When large sections of the large intestine are removed, the bodies ability to retain moisture from the content decreases leading to diarrhoea; couple this with possible removal of the rectum and there is faecal incontinence. This will become a part of normal life or the body will try to compensate. Dietary changes to foods with less fibre may help firm up the stool. For more information speak with your Veterinarian as they will know which section of bowel was removed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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misty

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Respitory Problem

what mild laxative are available Dog is 11yrs weighs 6.8 kg enlarged abdomen restricting his breathing.has heart murmur 5-6 today not on any meds at present. am waiting on full medical health bloods for metabolic problems - just know that older people have problems emptying bowels properly are given meds for it. don't want strong stimulant, he has been opening his bowels just don't think enough no sign of obstruction or mass, appetite good

July 26, 2017

misty's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Since Misty is waiting for some test results and presently under the duty of care of a Veterinarian, I wouldn’t recommend any medication but by feeding Misty some canned pumpkin (no spices), canned dog food (if she is used to dry) or mineral oil it may help her digestive transit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

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Simba

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Chihuahua Dauchshund mix

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Pooping In Days
A Little Stiff St
Doesn’T Even Attempt To Poop

Adopted him recently, pooped once the day we got him. Didn’t poop for the next 4 days until taken to the vet, they did X-rays and everything is normal, right now it’s been 4 days since he last pooped. Otherwise fine, eats, appears healthy, pees and goes on walks normally. Should I be worried?

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Cassie

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German Shepherd

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite

Our vet believes this is what our dog is dealing with now. She's a GSD/GR cross, 10 years old. She has just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and her stomach is extremely distended. She was given a laxative, enema and kept at the vet all day yesterday. Her stomach was x-rayed and there is a huge mass in it. She has never played with toys or eaten anything other than a treat or her dog food. She's always been shy and withdrawn. The laxative and enema did not help and she won't eat or drink now (she's back at home). We are to take her back on Friday but she is absolutely miserable and Friday is a long way off. Will surgery be the next step?

Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $8,000

Average Cost

$1,600

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