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Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery - What You Need to Know

Sometimes, our dogs eat things they shouldn't. So, it's imperative to watch for signs of intestinal blockages in your dog. Intestinal obstructions are relatively common issues diagnosed by our Los Angeles County vets. Today, we explain the causes and symptoms of this problem, along with the surgery that may save your dog's life. 

How Dog Intestinal Blockages Happen

Bowel obstructions are often found in dogs. These can happen when their stomach or intestines have been partially or entirely blocked. Blockages may cause numerous complications, including preventing food and water from making their way through the GI tract and decreasing blood flow. Intestinal blockages can even cause fatal complications within 3 to 7 days. 

Blockages can develop anywhere along the digestive tract. While some may be able to pass through the esophagus, they may not enter the stomach. Others may reach the stomach but not the intestines, or get lodged within the intricate twists and turns of a dog's intestines. 

The most frequent cause of bowel obstructions is foreign bodies. Every pup faces the risk of swallowing a surprising range of items, from trash and toys to dish towels, socks, underwear, rope and more. String, yarn and rope fibers are especially hazardous for dogs as they can cause the intestines to twist. Tumors or masses are other common bowel obstructions in older dogs. 

Dog Intestinal Blockage Timeline

One common questions you might have is, 'Can a dog die from an intestinal blockage?' Sadly, yes. 

Left untreated, an intestinal blockage may put pressure on the intestinal wall, leading to damage to the intestines and potentially causing tissue to die. It can also lead to rupture or perforation in the bowel. without appropriate treatment, dogs with complete intestinal blockage will usually die within 3 to 4 days. 

Some foreign objects may pass on their own with time. However, when it comes to estimating a timeline for intestinal blockage in dogs, time is a critical factor. If your dog's system does not pass the object on its own and your pup is displaying symptoms listed in this post, your vet will need to administer treatment as soon as possible. 

If your vet finds that the foreign object represents an immediate danger, emergency surgery will be recommended. 

If your dog displays any of the common intestinal blockage symptoms listed below, we strongly recommend seeking emergency veterinary care. 

Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

How can you be sure if your dog has an intestinal blockage? It can be easy to brush off symptoms of intestinal blockages as merely an upset stomach unless you happened to witness your dog swallowing a foreign object.

That said, we recommend contacting your vet right away if you see any of these symptoms in your dog:

  • Abdomen is painful to the touch
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
  • Whining
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Dehydration 
  • Vomiting

If you suspect your dog has ingested something they shouldn't have or they are displaying the symptoms listed above, call your veterinarian as soon as possible, or contact your nearest animal emergency center.

Diagnosing Dog Intestinal Blockages

If you saw your dog eat a foreign object, you might be wondering how you can help your dog pass the obstruction. You should not attempt this on your own, your dog needs veterinary care.

Your vet will first perform a physical exam on your dog, paying special attention to the abdomen. They may also perform blood work to determine if the blockage is affecting your dog’s overall health.

From there, your dog will be taken to the in-house diagnostic veterinary lab for X-rays and any other imaging technique required to try to see the foreign object. One such test is an endoscopy, a procedure that inserts a small tube with a tiny attached camera through your dog’s throat and into the stomach. Your dog would be sedated for this procedure.

Treatments For Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Treatment for intestinal obstructions may require your dog or cat to undergo surgery. There may also be non-surgical treatment options. Many factors go into this decision including the location, how long the object has been stuck, and the size, shape, and structure of the object.

In some cases, a vet can retrieve the foreign object with an endoscope. If this is not possible, your vet likely will consult the ultrasound or X-rays to determine where (and what) the obstruction is. We may also refer you to a veterinary surgeon near Los Angeles County, depending on the nature of your pet's condition and other factors. 

Intestinal blockage Surgery for Dogs

Dog intestinal blockage surgery is a major procedure, requiring your dog to be anesthetized. After the surgery, your dog will stay at the hospital and recover for several days

For the intestinal surgery, your vet will make an incision into your dog’s abdomen near the blockage site and carefully extract the object. The length of surgery can vary because they may need to repair any damage to the stomach or intestinal wall resulting from the obstruction.

Your dog’s survival after surgery to remove an intestinal blockage depends on a few things:

  • Size, shape, and location of the foreign object
  • How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines
  • Your dog’s health before the surgery
  • The physical exam and diagnostic tests that your vet performs before surgery will help them determine how well they think your dog will do after veterinary surgery. Of course, the sooner the surgery is performed, the better.

Dogs' Recovery After Intestinal Blockage Surgery

The most critical period for your dog is the first 72 hours after surgery. If the patient is doing well after 72 hours then they typically recover well, but there are still some potential complications:

  • Sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count)
  • Dehiscence (Wound separation or opening)

After surgery and hospitalization, monitor your dog and keep their activity level very low. Stick to short walks for at least a week — you don’t want their sutures to tear. Your dog will also need to wear a cone to keep them from chewing on the healing incision.

It’s important to feed your dog small amounts of bland food before gradually transitioning to his previous diet during this time. Also, make sure they are getting enough fluids to prevent dehydration.

Major surgery is painful. Your dog won’t be in pain during the surgery, of course, but will probably feel some discomfort afterward. Your veterinary surgeon will prescribe post-surgery pain medication for your dog. Be sure to follow the prescription instructions carefully to effectively manage your dog's pain at home and fight off infections.

Anesthesia can make some dogs feel nauseated after surgery and it’s common for dogs to vomit afterward. So, your vet may also prescribe medications to relieve your dog’s nausea and vomiting, if needed.

Intestinal Blockage Surgery Cost

The cost of intestinal blockage surgery for dogs can vary dramatically depending on how extensive the surgery is, how long the obstruction has been present, the length of the hospital stay, and other factors such as the overall health of your dog, age of your dog, and even where you live. To get an accurate estimate of how much veterinary intestinal blockage surgery near Los Angeles County will cost, you must speak to your vet or veterinary surgeon.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

The best way to prevent intestinal blockages in your dog is to limit their chances of ingesting non-food material.

  • Putting things your dog may eat out of his reach.
  • Be vigilant about items in the house and track when they are missing.
  • Keep an eye on your dog while they are playing with his toys or chewing on rawhide or bones.
  • Keep your dogs from scavenging through garbage and debris (outside and inside the house).

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog swallowed something they shouldn't have, or are they exhibiting signs of intestinal blockage? Contact our Los Angeles County vets at Animal Hospital of Redondo Beach right away for urgent assistance.

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