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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,000

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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 09/30/2015, edited: 02/24/2021

Intestinal Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Labrador Retriever

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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8 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Abdominal Distension

On walk.When I put harness on he was fine.Belly-normal.Everything-good.Tried to poop.Pooped some.Walked 10-15 steps,he paused,slowed down,stopped.Would not walk further.Postured with back swayed,shoulders down,front legs wide,paws outward.Stood wobbling slightly several minutes.5 minutes he was able to walk-not much.Took to vet.Spent $400.Not GDV. Got no other answers.Vet busy.Never called to tell me what was wrong. Sent him home with no help, no answers, no relief.what could make belly suddenly bulge.Was fine,one second later was distended- visibly.Still very distended.He is not comfortable.

Dec. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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8 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. Sometimes dogs will tense their abdomen and it will become a little bloated due to back pain. From what you describe I would wonder if we have e.g. a slipped disc in the back. As it is painful, dogs tense their abdomen to take pressure off their back. I would request an xray of both the abdomen and spine, which will hopefully provide an answer.

Dec. 21, 2020

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Three Years

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Abdomen, Lethargic

Hello, I took my dog to the vet today to treat a separate problem (small amounts of discharge/pus at the vagina). She is an unspayed female. All blood work came back normal. The x-ray showed a bunch of gas pockets in the small intestine. He wanted to observe her for a blockage with barium, more x-rays and give her IV fluids. It didn't make sense to me so I brought her home. She has been eating & drinking as usual, is very hungry (normal), normal stools & peeing, no vomiting. Her heat cycle is expected now. Does obstruction seem likely or would you suspect something else?

Oct. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. What you're describing seems very much like a pyometra, or an infection in the uterus. I think that I would either have a recheck with your veterinarian and asked specifically about that, or have a second opinion. Perhaps they were not aware that she was not spayed? We sometimes need an ultrasound to make sure that that is not happening. I hope that all goes well for her.

Oct. 6, 2020

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German Shepherd/Rottweiler

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Fifteen Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

My dog ate much of a bone the other day rhat I stupidly fed him thinking it would be fine. He threw up 3 times that night, the next day he was pooping normally until the last bathroom trip of the day, which was soft. They've been soft all day yesterday and then this morning too. Aside from that he seems totally fine, very playful and energetic, lets me touch his belly enthusiastically, no signs of pain, although he seems to be eating and drinking more than ususal. Will this fix itself given some time or is he in trouble?

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Bordoodle

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17 weeks

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Appetite

My almost 4 month old 32 pound seems to be less interested in his food. We recently increased his portion of Purina pro plan Large breed puppy food to 2 cups twice a day because at his last vet visit they suggested me increase his food. He seems to be less interested in his food and not as hungry, his bowel movements are the same as they have always been in size and consistency and he seems to have plenty of energy. I don’t think he has gotten into anything and he has no other symptoms other than not being as excited about food so I am wondering if the 4 cups of food a day is just too much.

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello, It may be a little too much right now for him but as he grows he will start to eat more food. You can try feeding 1.5 cups twice a day instead of 2 to see if that helps.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Chihuahua

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9 months

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Straining To Defecate

My dog is straining to poop and has a little blood around his anal area. He vomited twice a few hours ago and a short time ago he threw up a little bike. When should I be concerned about an obstruction?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. At this point I'm not sure that I would be worried about an obstruction, but it would be possible that he has an intestinal infection or a foreign body if he is eating things he shouldn't. Because he is vomiting, and also straining to defecate and has blood in the stool, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can examine him, see what might be causing this, and discuss treatment with you. I hope that everything goes well for him.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Shy

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Labrador Retriever

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Vomiting
Dehydration
Loss Of Appetite
No Pain No Swelling

The notorious Labrador appetite strikes again... 4 days ago I noticed my dog lab X maremma started doing bright yellow liquid stools, this was quickly followed by vomiting, sometimes immediately after eating other times a few hours later. At one point she'd thrown up food from the night before that largely came out in tact and quite dry. Being a habitual chomper of strange things she finds like sticks, weeds and just about anything any one leaves on the floor food wise we are Not sure she has ingested anything other than large amount of grass however we cannot find the Name tag from her collar. Though we have checked her stomach and intestines by hand (massaged) and she is not in pain or discomfort, nor is she in pain when laying down or on her side. 2 days ago her symptoms seemed to improve themselves, however the following day she both vomited and had runny stools again. Today we have gone out invested in a paws probiotic and have been syringing her watered down hydralyte ever 30 minutes as well as encouraging normal water. I have additionally started only feeding her rice and boiled chicken in small quantities every 4 hours so she has something in her stomach. So far the volume of her vomit has begun to decrease and is less frequent and she'd only passed stool twice today albeit still runny but now going from bright yellow to a light brown. We're giving her till Monday if it persists we will go to a vet despite not really being in a position to afford it.

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Audemars

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Bernese Mountain Dog

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Gurgling
Gas

My dog broke into the closet earlier this week and binged a sock (or two) and a pair of underwear. He has passed one of the socks and vomited the underwear already, but I haven’t seen anymore socks pass in his stool. He has no signs of symptoms other than very bad gas and a persistent gurgling sound in his stomach. He had to have surgery in the past (before we got him) for eating a tube sock. These socks were small ankle socks, though, so I don’t know how long I should wait before bringing him in since he has no threatening symptoms. He’s a 120lb Bernese Mountain Dog

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Jodi

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cockapoo

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18 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Possibly Swallowed Plastic
Normal Appetite And Bowel Movements

Our 18 week old, 9 1/2 pound Cockapoo may have swallowed a plastic water bottle cap (my wife saw her chewing something, swept her mouth with a finger, and believed she felt a bottle cap). We took her to the vet. The vet induced vomiting and our dog vomited two very small pieces of plastic but could not determine if they were part of a cap. An x-ray and then an ultra sound were conducted and no bottle cap was detected. We were sent home and told to monitor the puppy for vomiting, lack of appetite or thirst or lack of bowel movements. Our puppy ate, drank,played and had normal bowel movements (7) but threw up a yellowish mucus 60 hours after we thought she swallowed the cap. After she vomited she continued to eat, drink, and play but vomited again 12 hours later. There is no tenderness and she is doing everything normal but the vomiting, which she had done occasionally before this incident. It seems as though she wouldn't have bowel movements almost 3 days later if a cap was obstructing her GI. We've called the vet and are waiting for a return call.It's Xmas day and there has been a lot of excitement going on.

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Romeo

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Shih Tzu

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Truncal Alopecia
Sleeps For Hourssss On End
Grunts When Moving Around

Romeo, my 11 year old shih tzu has been throwing up everything he eats. First when he went in for throwing up bile in October they gave him meds he came around but soon got sick again and later in November they found about 4 bladder stones. So we changed his diet and put him on some more meds. He always had an appetite and been a bit of a lazy chill dog all his life but lately he stays in his bed bag more often then not. He seemed to perk back up a bit still enjoyed his treats and toys but something was still off. December 5th we took him to the ER because he was having a hard time catching his breathe after "coughing" and over the past few weeks around Thanksgiving he started throwing up undigested food. They said he had a collapsing trachea and just to monitor him they give some anti-inflammatory meds. That would eventually require surgery but He would recover from his "spells" for the time being. He seemed to do good with those meds and was a bit back to himself, quiet but going for walks, eating, wanting treats, still sleeping for hours on end.... but this past week he has thrown up every meal including what seems to be water. He still acts very hungry and wants water but is not keeping anything down he loves his treats but they aren't staying down either. So we took him to another specialist and they say he has pyloric outflow obstruction surgery would cost up to $7000 and to make matters more heartbreaking they found bilateral adrenal masses. No test were ran on the masses but the vets are leaning towards cancer and to remove them would be a highly risky procedure based on location. I'm heartbroken and torn what to do. The vet suggested it wouldn't be a terrible thing to put him down for his own comfort. He perked up when we got home and wanted to eat but what kind of life would I be offering him if he is constantly throwing up and couldn't remove the massas even if we wanted to. I'm just not ready to say goodbye.....but I don't want him to suffer

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Chevy

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daushound

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea

5 days ago my dog started having Diarrhea, very loose and wet. still has it today 5 days later. Yesterday i came home and noticed he threw up a sock and muliple accidents of diarrhea on the potty pads. he had diarrhea all night last night and all day today. when i notices the sock it looked like it was all there. but when he does go to the bathroom even though it is diarrhea it looks like he is straining. he is eating and drinking like normal. i cant afford surgery, testing or extrays. any advice?

Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$3,000

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