What is Intestinal Obstruction?

Intestinal obstruction in dogs refers to complete or partial blockage of fluid and food flow through the small intestines. This is somewhat common in dogs as they can be indiscriminate eaters. During obstruction, blood supply to the GI tract can become compromised, leading to necrosis (death) of intestinal tissue and possible perforation. Bacteria from the bowels can spill into the abdominal cavity causing septic peritonitis. Obstruction can be deadly if not caught and treated early. Emergency surgery is often required to remove the obstruction and any dead tissue.

Intestinal obstructions are very painful for dogs and can be fatal if left untreated. During obstruction, blood supply can become compromised, and perforation can lead to septic peritonitis. It is important to contact a veterinarian immediately for treatment options.

Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 220 quotes ranging from $800 - $7,000

Average Cost

$3,000

Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Signs of intestinal obstruction in dogs can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Tarry stools
  • Inability to defecate
  • Lethargy
  • Burping
  • Excessive drooling
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Remaining still
  • Refusing to lie down
Types

Intestinal obstruction can refer to two types of blockage:

  • Gastric outflow obstruction – Obstruction of fluid and food movement from the stomach to the small intestine.
  • Small intestinal obstruction – Obstruction of fluid and food movement through the small intestine.
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Causes of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Causes of gastric outflow obstruction can include:

  • Ingestion of objects that cannot be broken down through digestion. Rawhides, bones, toys, clothes, towels, stuffed animals, rocks, sticks, tennis balls, shoelaces, hair ties/bands and ribbon are some causes for this that can occur.
  • Abdominal tumor
  • Gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and small intestine)
  • Pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the pyloric sphincter)
  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (twisting of the stomach)

Causes of small intestinal obstruction can include:

  • Ingestion of objects that cannot be broken down through digestion. Rawhides, bones, toys, clothes, towels, stuffed animals, rocks, sticks, tennis balls, shoelaces, hair ties/bands and ribbon are some causes for this that can occur.
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Intestinal stricture (narrowing of the intestine)
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Abdominal tumor
  • Hernia
  • Intussusception (folding of the intestine)
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Diagnosis of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

The minute you see your pet swallow something large, sharp or indigestible, you should visit the veterinarian to decide whether the best action is to induce vomiting. If you don’t see the actual event but are noticing signs, it is critical to see the veterinarian for an examination. A history will determine if the pet has ingested any dangerous item or has gotten into the trash. A physical examination will allow the veterinarian to feel the abdomen to reveal masses, intussusception, pain or foreign objects.

If your veterinarian suspects intestinal obstruction, blood testing can identify anemia or infection. Abdominal radiographs can aid in visualizing foreign bodies, tumors, and abnormal bowels. Ultrasound is another good tool to identify presence of an obstruction and its location.

Your veterinarian may order a Barium series. Barium sulfate is a metallic compound that shows up on x-ray. If the barium is blocked from flowing or is delayed in movement, this can indicate an obstruction and help to pinpoint its location.

If diagnostics indicate an intestinal obstruction, exploratory surgery (laparotomy) can be performed (often the same day) to locate and remove the obstruction.

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Treatment of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Induce Vomiting

If your pet is brought in after having ingested something and the veterinarian is able to induce vomiting and produce the foreign object, the pet will be sent home to monitor for appetite, any vomiting and normal bowel movements (to ensure all potential danger of obstruction was eliminated through vomiting).

If you have brought your pet in because of signs of intestinal obstruction, it may be too late for vomiting to be sufficient treatment.

Hospitalization and Stabilization

As intestinal obstruction can be life-threatening. Once diagnosis is made, the pet will be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids to aid in hydration and electrolyte restoration. If an obstruction appears it may pass, the veterinarian may use fluid therapy and medical therapy to attempt to speed up the process. Continued radiographs can help in examining movement of the object.

Laparotomy

Gastric dilatation volvulus requires immediate surgery. Foreign objects or masses that are obstructing the intestines will also often require immediate surgery to remove the object and necrotic tissue. The pet will undergo general anesthesia. The stomach and/or small intestines will be opened to remove the foreign object/mass or to correct any abnormal folding.

Resection and Anastomosis

Any dead intestinal tissue will be identified and removed. The intestines will be closed and examined for possible spots of leakage. If this procedure must be performed, the probability of post-operative complications increases.

Gastropexy

In the case of gastric dilatation volvulus, the stomach may be sutured to the intestinal wall to prevent recurrence. Some deep-chested dogs (great Danes, sight hounds) have this surgery as a preventative measure.

Release

The patient may be hospitalized for 2-3 days to monitor stability as this is an invasive surgery. Antibiotics, pain medications and anti-emetics (anti-nausea medications) will be administered via injection. Oral medications will likely be continued following release.

Prognosis can be good if an intestinal obstruction is caught and treated early. The prognosis is poor if much time has allowed to lapse. Curious about which health plan is right for your dog? Head over to Forbes' breakdown of the best pet insurance providers.

Paying for your pet’s routine shots, bloodwork and tests can also be difficult to budget for. Fortunately, Wag! Wellness plans cover costs for routine care for your pet, getting your money straight back into your bank account within 24 hours. In the market for wellness plans? Compare wellness plan packages to find the right plan for your pet!

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Recovery of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

After surgery, it is important to keep your pet still and resting for a few weeks. Food is often withheld for a period of time and then a bland diet is introduced in small amounts every few hours. The portion sizes are gradually increased over 2-3 days and the diet is then transitioned back to the normal diet gradually over 7 days.

It is important to monitor your pet for vomiting, appetite, and bowel movements and report any abnormalities to your veterinarian.

Ingestion of foreign objects can lead to costly veterinary bills.  Keep pets from chewing things they could swallow or tear up and then swallow. Be careful with trash bins. Keep them in a closed closet or use a secure lid.

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Cost of Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

The veterinarian will most likely perform a physical exam first which can cost $50 to $100 on average. The doctor may require blood testing to determine any infections. Blood testing can cost between $50 and $400. An abdominal radiograph may be necessary for a better view of what and where the object is. This test can cost between $150 and $400. If the doctor needs a better view, she may order an ultrasound that can cost $230 to $400. Once the veterinarian has concluded the cause and location of the obstruction, she will start treatment. The dog will need to be hospitalized with intravenous fluids, which can be quite costly, depending on medications needed and response to therapy. If the veterinarian needs to perform a laparotomy, this will require a general anesthesia and can cost between $500 and $5000, depending on how diseased the intestines are. Finally, your dog will need a variety of medications along the way, and once released from the hospital. 

Intestinal obstruction can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has intestinal obstruction or is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

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Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 220 quotes ranging from $800 - $7,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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Intestinal Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Dachshund

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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17 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My dog started suddenly with very smelly diarrhea. No vomiting. She has strained to try to move her bowels but has been unable. Her abdomen is soft with bowel sounds. This has continued for two days. The diarrhea is brown (not dark) but very smelly and oily. I haven’t seen her eat anything; but she has a tendency to eat any & everything.

April 5, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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17 Recommendations

Oh bless her, she looks quite fed up. Ongoing diarrhoea can lead to dehydration and could indicate e.g. an infection or gut obstruction. A vet visit is best to examine her and as she may need medicine such as antibiotics and anti diarrhoea paste. At home, ensure she is up to date with a good quality wormer and offer a bland meal of chicken and rice.

April 5, 2021

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Chiweenie

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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13 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tarry Stool

So my dog has been leaving little tiny spots on my floor even though we have yet to catch them doing it a literally is in the blink of an eye it's everywhere it's little tiny poops that are hardest held get off my floor their dark and they smell horrible not when you 1st come in contact with it but after you try cleaning it up it's Disgusting. It's been going on for the last couple of days. She's not complaining or rubbing her butt on the floor she's not constantly Licking her behind in fact it's almost like there's nothing wrong with her. No matter what we used to clean it up, It's damn impossible including a putty knife

Feb. 17, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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13 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. This may be digested blood which can occur with stomach or small intestinal bleeding. You should see a vet right away to determine why this is happening and to rule out anaemia or dehydration. They may run some tests such as a blood and stool analysis.

Feb. 17, 2021

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Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 220 quotes ranging from $800 - $7,000

Average Cost

$3,000

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