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What is Intussusception?

Studies show that intussusception is a condition that transpires most often in puppies less than one-year-old, although it can happen to canines of any age. Most cases develop in the small intestine, and it is known that large breed dogs are more prone, though the telescoping of the intestine has been seen to occur in small breeds as well. German Shepherds are vulnerable to folding (invagination) in the gastroesophageal region.

Intussusception is the veterinary term for the folding of the intestine within itself. When a portion of the gastrointestinal tract folds into a preceding or posterior section of the intestine, serious consequences can occur which require immediate veterinary intervention.

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Symptoms of Intussusception in Dogs

The condition of intussusception can lead to an intestinal obstruction, a very dangerous materialization. The symptoms below are an indication that you must bring your canine companion to the veterinary clinic without delay.

  • Abdominal pain could be evident
  • There may be a gas distension of the abdomen
  • You may feel an abdominal mass
  • Your dog might have episodes of regurgitation
  • He could be dehydrated
  • There may be vomiting, with or without blood
  • His breathing might be labored
  • He could have diarrhea or pass bloody stool
  • He may not be able to pass stool at all
  • His appetite will be low
  • He could be experiencing nausea and vomiting
  • There could be signs of depression

It is important to note that the symptoms of intussusception can be intermittent. This does not mean that the situation is improving; the danger of imminent shock and death is very real.


When the intestine telescopes or folds within itself, the invagination takes place in either the gastroesophageal region, the small intestine, or more rarely, in the large intestine. A gastroesophageal intussusception occurs in the region of the stomach and esophagus, with symptoms being very severe. Folding of the small or large intestine will have variable symptoms, with the lower, large intestine exhibiting less severe clinical signs. Intussusception of either region brings the danger of an intestinal obstruction, which can lead to dangerous results.

Causes of Intussusception in Dogs

There are many situations and factors that can lead to the folding of the intestine.

  • Infection of the intestine (bacterial, viral or protozoal) like Parvovirus, Giardia, or canine distemper
  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat)
  • Abrupt dietary changes
  • Inflammatory disease
  • Idiopathic (reason unknown)
  • Previous intestinal surgery
  • Disruption in normal motility function
  • Tumor in the intestine
  • Complications of an abdominal hernia
  • Foreign objects like rocks or bones
  • Pyloric stenosis (thickened muscle located between the stomach and upper intestine) common in brachycephalic breeds
  • Intense contraction of the bowel
  • Intestinal parasites such as roundworm or whipworm

Diagnosis of Intussusception in Dogs

Bringing your furry family member to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible is of utmost importance if there is any suspicion of an obstruction, ingestion of a foreign object, or the realization on your part that your dog is suffering from abdominal distress.

When you arrive at the clinic, be certain to voice your concerns immediately. The veterinary team will then know the urgency of the situation right away. A physical examination could reveal a palpable mass (this could be the telescoping of the intestine), and abdominal distension (due to the presence of gasses), two definite signs that could mean intussusception.

The veterinary team will most likely need to sedate your pet, in order to begin a series of radiographs. An x-ray could show an obstruction, gas and loops or folding of the bowel. A barium contrast radiography could be needed for definitive viewing of the intestine.

An ultrasound will clearly show the intussusception, with the typical target-like rings that appear in the intestine when folding has taken place. There is a possibility that gasses may block the view somewhat, making multiple viewings a prospect.

Your veterinarian will take a fecal sample to check for parasitic eggs or parvovirus, which she will want to rule out as a cause for the invagination of the intestine. She may test the electrolyte levels of your dog, in addition, to verify if other factors are presented.

Treatment of Intussusception in Dogs

Surgery for folding of the intestines is a complex procedure, but can offer a positive outcome with early intervention. But, before surgery is discussed, your veterinarian will want to stabilize your dog.

The heart rate, blood pressure, electrolyte levels, and body temperature are all important health issues that must be addressed as your dog is treated. Intravenous fluids will be started to address dehydration. Antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, and pain relief will be administered as the immediate comfort of your beloved family member are paramount.

Once your pet is stable, the surgery must be reviewed. Due to the definite hazards of the pressure on the intestines restricting blood flow (which could cause the death of tissue), and the release of toxins and bacteria into the gastrointestinal system, time is of the essence. Your veterinarian may choose to do an exploratory laparotomy so she can advise you on the risks, potential complications and the approximate cost of the surgery and hospitalization.

It may be the case that the veterinary surgeon is able to manually adjust and fix the intestinal invagination or telescoping during the surgical procedure. Surgery to correct the intussusception could also involve anastomosis (a resectioning of the bowel and intestine) if portions are damaged beyond repair. In some cases, a procedure called enteroplication, whereby the surgeon lays out the intestines in an accordion-like fashion and sutures the sections together, is recommended in order to prevent recurrence.

It should be noted that in some cases, a manual manipulation of the intestines is possible without surgery, but the usual episode of intussusception requires surgical intervention.

Recovery of Intussusception in Dogs

Once the surgery is complete, and your dog is showing signs of recovery, the veterinary team may begin the re-introduction of food and water. When your veterinary caregiver feels that your dog is well enough to be discharged, she will let you take your furry family member home, with strict instructions for crate rest and a peaceful room in which to recover.

Exercise will be forbidden until the veterinary team gives the okay. Your pet may have special dietary needs and medication to take; be sure to follow the guidelines to the letter. Consult the clinic if you have any questions or concerns about the recovery process and the day to day improvement in your pet’s demeanor and liveliness.

Though recurrence of folding of the intestines does take place in the case of 10 to 25 percent of pets, the prognosis is good, depending upon the age of your dog, and how much of the bowel and intestine was damaged and resectioned. There is a chance of leakage in the intestine of pets who have had a resectioning. Monitor your pet carefully from now on, and always contact your veterinarian without delay if you are unsure of the condition of your pet, or if you suspect complications.

Intussusception Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

3 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Stopped eating, diarrhoea,

Our huntaway has had surgery for intussusception a round 3 years ago
Can she pass this on to her puppies?
She was almost 3 when she had it, the vets missed it, she almost died, we took her back in after being told to take her home and demanded they open her up to look(we could feel the lump)

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2008 Recommendations
Whilst intussusception isn’t considered a genetic condition, some breeds or more predisposed than others; however if your Veterinarian had concerns at the time they would have spayed her during the surgery. Intussusception is normally caused by parasites, foreign objects, tumours or dietary issues; but some breeds are affected more than others, couldn’t find any specific data on Huntaways. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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German Shepherd Dog
5 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

My 5 month of GSD just had surgery for this, they went in and undid what was done, none of the intestine was damaged, we caught it before it was bad, however I am wondering if I’ll be able to breed her when she is older or not? I don’t want to effect what was done, but I know that I would like to be able to breed her just once.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2008 Recommendations
There should be no problem breeding Nea after this surgery, but the recurrence of intussusception can be as high as 20% according to some studies (depending on the surgical technique used). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Rhodesian Ridgeback/Labrador mix
3 1/2
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

After intussusception surgery our dog started to eat dog poop. We suspect some kind of mineral or vitamin deficiency since some of her intestines was removed. What is she deficient in and what should we supplement her diet with to fix the deficiency?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2008 Recommendations
Whilst consumption of faeces or non-food items is normally associated with a mineral or vitamin deficiency it is not possible to know specifically which nutrient is deficient and supplementation may still result in a lack of absorption when given orally. It is important to ensure that Sadie is on a complete balanced diet and to check in with your Veterinarian for a blood test to check for calcium/phosphorus etc… Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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German Shepherd
3 Months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms


Intussusception surgery for 3 months GSD.

Is there a chance for this Dog reach his full potential ( like Height, weight and flexible for exercise) in future. Lets imagine he would reach point 10 (eg: 1-10) in 15 months without Surgery, will he reach same level after surgery.

Please suggest.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2008 Recommendations

There are many variables that need to be considered when determining prognosis for intussusception in a puppy including severity, has it caused a blockage, timeframe, length of intestine removed, sections of intestine removed etc… If a large portion of intestine is removed, Terry may have absorption problems which may have an effect on his overall health; it would be best to discuss this with your Veterinarian as they will have an idea after x-ray of the level of severity. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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