All of us who have had a dog in our life know that all dogs love to explore the world around them with their noses, their paws, and especially their mouths. Sometimes our beloved four legged family members will eat things they shouldn’t, which can mean serious medical issues for them in the future.
While some things they shouldn’t eat will be digestible, and they might pass them without any issues, other things won’t pass so easily and they might get stuck. When this happens, it is known as an intestinal blockage.
Unfortunately, our dogs can’t talk so they don’t really have a way of telling us when they don’t feel well or something might be wrong. An intestinal blockage can be a life-threatening condition for your dog if it’s not looked at and removed very quickly.
Since your pet can’t tell you if they’re experiencing pain or distress, here is what you need to know to look for in your dog if you suspect and intestinal blockage.
Location of Blockage
Depending on what your dog has eaten, the item can get stuck in a number of different places along the gastrointestinal tract.
- Small intestine
- Toward the end of small intestine/beginning of large intestine
Symptoms of a Blockage
The symptoms of an intestinal blockage in your dog can vary depending on the location the item is stuck.
If your dog has eaten something that got stuck almost immediately and it got stuck in their esophagus there are some obvious symptoms to look for.
With a blockage in this location, your dog will likely be licking their lips and swallowing very frequently. Additionally, they will likely be regurgitating right after eating food. These symptoms will show up very quickly after they swallow the item.
This kind of blockage usually displays a few hours after eating something they shouldn’t, and is mostly characterized by vomiting a couple of hours after eating. This kind of blockage usually happens when your dog has swallow large, smooth items.
In addition to vomiting, a blockage in the small intestine often goes along with abdominal pain, distended abdomen, fever and even shock. Your dog may also be lethargic with a blockage in the small intestine.
Towards the end of the Small Intestine
This kind of blockage can give your dog diarrhea in addition to vomiting. For a blockage towards the end of the small intestine, the vomiting will typically take place about 8 hours after your dog eats so the symptoms won’t be as immediate as the other locations.
Difference in Location of Blockage
When an item gets stuck in the esophagus or the stomach, often times the item will block the pylorus which means that food won’t make its way through to the intestinal tract.
Since the food can’t make its way through the digestive tract, it will cause the vomiting that happens within a few hours of eating. The items that most commonly cause this kind of blockage are golf balls, marbles, and bones.
If the item your dog swallowed creates a blockage further down the digestive tract then the food does get past the pylorus but doesn’t fully digest.
When this happens, the gases from the digestive process start to accumulate and that is why the abdomen distends. If left untreated, this could cut of blood supply causing tissues to die.
The further along in the intestinal tract the blockage is the more common diarrhea will be.
Sometimes the symptoms of an intestinal blockage aren’t obvious right away. This is because even though they swallowed something they shouldn’t it may not create a treat blockage right away.
For example, if your dog destroys a stuffed toy and swallows part of it, it might kind of bounce around in the stomach for a few days until it begins to be digested to the small intestine.
The small intestine is much narrower than the stomach so it becomes a blockage at this point where it wasn’t before.
The esophagus and the stomach as much larger than the small intestines, so this allows your dog to swallow items easily that are actually too big to pass through the rest of the digestive tract.
In cases like this, it can be difficult to determine there’s a blockage since there is no immediate recollection of your dog swallowing something they shouldn’t.
If You Suspect a Blockage
Intestinal blockages can very easily be removed from your dog, especially if they are caught quickly after your dog has swallowed the object. Unfortunately, you may not catch your dog in the act so you might know that your dog has ingested something and you won’t know why they’re sick.
If your dog is exhibiting the symptoms of an intestinal block, you should call your vet right away. Sometimes the symptoms show up over night or on a weekend when your vet isn’t open. Every city has one or two emergency vet clinics that are open at all hours.
Before bringing your dog into the vet clinic, they might suggest you try to induce vomiting for your dog. If the item is stuck in the esophagus or stomach chances are induced vomiting can dislodge the item. The vet clinic will be able to walk you through how to do this safely at home.
If this doesn’t work, and your dog cannot regurgitate the item they will suggest you bring your dog in. If there is a blockage, it will need to be removed immediately so that it doesn’t cause further harm to your dog. Dogs recover completely from blockage when they are found on time and removed as soon as possible.
When you bring your dog to the vet
At the veterinarians office, your vet will start with a physical exam of your dog to determine where the pain might be coming from. During the physical exam, if there is a blockage then the vet will be able to feel it and locate it.
Next, if necessary, your vet will likely suggest an x-ray to reveal the exact location and details of the object – like what it is that your dog swallowed. It is important to note that not all objects will show up during an exam.
For example, a bone may not show up on an x-ray but an item like a rock or a marble will. In these cases, your vet will likely give the dog barium to make items like bones visible on an x-ray.
During this phase of the exam, your vet will be able to determine if your dog needs surgery or if this is an item your dog can pass on its own.
Surgery or Endoscope
Depending on what the item is your dog ingested, your vet will have a couple options for removing it. Your vet may recommend surgery, or they may use an endoscope – which is a tool that can be put down your dogs throat and can remove items that are still in your dog’s stomach.
If the item has been further digested, it is likely your dog will require surgery.
Post Removal of Foreign Object
The prognosis of your dog post-surgery really depends on the time the foreign object was in their intestines, what the foreign object was and how complicated it was to remove.
Most dogs have little to no complications post surgery, but they should still be monitored for the first few days after surgery to make sure they don’t have leaking from the intestinal tract.
If they have any fever or swelling during recovery, you need to call your vet immediately to determine next steps.
After surgery, you will also have to reintroduce your dog to solid foods slowly, and they should be on a liquid or soft food diet for a few days.
How to Prevent Intestinal Blockages
Almost all intestinal blockages in dogs come from the dog ingesting a foreign object that they shouldn’t have. So the best way to prevent further intestinal blockages is to make sure your dog doesn’t ingest something they shouldn’t. You can do this by
- Keeping your dog out of the trash – and keep the trash out of reach of your dog. This will ensure your dog doesn’t eat any bones or garbage items they shouldn’t.
- Make sure their toys are larger than what they can swallow. Small toys that your dog can easily swallow can easily become a blockage.
- Always watch your dog when chewing a bone or playing with toys. It only takes a couple seconds for your dog to swallow something he shouldn’t.
When it comes to an intestinal blockage, your dog will very likely recover with minimal – if any – long term consequences as long as you get your dog to the vet very quickly. Keep an eye on your dog regularly, looking for signs of not eating, lethargy, and diarrhea to see if he isn’t feeling well. If you notice your dog acting strange, call your vet and make an appointment for a check-up.