Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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.

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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

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Thor

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Mastiff

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1 Year

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

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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1 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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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

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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recommendation-ribbon

1 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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Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,600

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