What is Colostomy ?
Because of damage to the intestine, it may become necessary to remove part of the colon and divert it through a stoma to the outside of the body. A bag can then be fitted to the stoma to collect fecal matter. This procedure is known as a 'colostomy' and is very rarely performed on dogs. The colostomy is a last-resort procedure, used only when other methods of treatment fail.
Colostomy Procedure in Dogs
The vet will first place the dog under general anesthetic and shave the site on the body where they intend to perform the colostomy. There are three main types of colostomy, with differing locations. These include the 'End Colostomy' (placed at either end of the bowel), the 'Loop Colostomy' (which pulls a loop of the bowel through the stoma) and the 'Double Barrel Colostomy' (whereby the bowel is cut in two and the two ends are pulled through the stoma). After preparing the relevant site of the incision, the vet will cut through the abdomen to the relevant part of the intestine and bisect it, closing off the lower end and then drawing the open, functional end out through the incision before suturing it in place. A colostomy bag will be fitted externally, to collect waste that would normally pass through the intestine.
Efficacy of Colostomy in Dogs
A colostomy will start diverting fecal matter out of the body as soon as it is put in place, so the damaged tract of intestine can start repairing itself right away. Depending on the type of problem afflicting the bowels, the colostomy may only be in place for a few weeks (if giving the intestine time to recover from injury) or may be permanent (if the intestine is too greatly damaged, or if the dog is incontinent).
Colostomy Recovery in Dogs
After surgery is complete, the dog will require painkillers. These will be administered at home by the owner, and will reduce the bulk of any felt discomfort. An E-collar may also be necessary to prevent the dog from damaging the stitches or tearing out the colostomy bag. The owner will also be responsible for changing out and emptying the bag itself. The vet will most likely want to schedule a series of regular follow-up visits in order to both check how the dog is healing and see how they are adapting to life with the colostomy. It may be necessary to limit the dog's exercise whilst they have the bag fitted, in order to prevent damage (although low-profile options do exist).
Cost of Colostomy in Dogs
The price of a colostomy surgery can be quite high due to the amount of specialized knowledge required to perform the procedure. Dependent on the type of colostomy performed, owners can expect it to cost over $2,000 in total.
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Dog Colostomy Considerations
Most owners will immediately identify the risk of placing their pet under general anesthetic, as some dogs can be susceptible to breathing or heart failure when unconscious. What some owners may not be aware of, however, is the risk of hernia via the stoma. This occurs in roughly a fifth of patients, but the risk can be mitigated by limiting the strenuousness of the activities the dog engages in. Despite these risks, the colostomy remains extremely effective and no vet would recommend its use without careful consideration.
Colostomy Prevention in Dogs
Although most cancers in dogs are hereditary and therefore unavoidable, an owner can do much to prevent direct injury to their dog's intestinal tract. Being mindful of potential dangers in areas where the dog exercises as well as not allowing them to roam into potentially hazardous areas or to quarrel with other dogs will head off most of the common causes of penetrating injuries.