If your dog has a bowel obstruction they will not only be in a
lot of pain, they will also be at risk for some serious
consequences. A bowel obstruction is a blockage that prevents
foods and fluids from passing through the GI tract. The
blockage can either be partial or complete, and can cause
problems with digestion as well as decreased blood flow to the
bowels. When blood cannot reach the bowels, the tissues
deteriorate and absorb toxic gastrointestinal contents. In
severe cases, this can result in tissue death and septic
peritonitis (a life-threatening
Some obstructions will pass on their own, but many will need to
be removed through surgery. It is important to seek out
treatment as soon as you see symptoms or suspect that your dog
has consumed something indigestible. The longer you wait, the
worse their prognosis will be.
Diagnosing a Dog Bowel Obstruction
Bowel obstructions are typically diagnosed through abdominal
x-rays or ultrasounds which reveal the obstruction or gaseous,
distended bowel loops.
Some veterinarians may also perform a gastric endoscopy, which
is a procedure in which a tube with a camera is inserted
through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.
This is a more serious procedure than an x-ray or ultrasound
and requires sedation or anesthesia. However, it can be
valuable if the object cannot otherwise be found or if the
veterinarian is able to use small endoscopic tools to remove
the obstruction during the exploration, rendering surgery
unnecessary. Whether this is possible will depend on the size,
type, and location of the object.
If the veterinarian is not able to locate the obstruction
through an x-ray, ultrasound, or endoscopy -- and if testing
has ruled out other medical conditions -- exploratory abdominal
surgery may be necessary. This is what is referred to as a
laparotomy and requires general anesthesia. Ideally, the
veterinarian will be able to locate and remove the obstruction
during this procedure.
Treating a Dog Bowel Obstruction
The goals of treatment for a bowel obstruction are to remove
the obstruction, stabilize the dog, and repair affected tissues
if possible. Treatment commonly involves the following:
- Hospitalize to correct dehydration and electrolyte balance
with fluid therapy
- Removal of the obstruction, either with an endoscope or
more commonly with surgery.
- If bowel tissues have deteriorated and/or died, the dead
sections may need to be removed and the remainder sutured back
together. This is referred to as resection and anastomosis.
- If torsion or bloat is
present, the veterinarian will untwist the affected organs or
tissues and then suture the stomach to the abdominal wall to
prevent future twisting. This is called gastropexy.
- Following abdominal surgery, antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce
the chance of infection. Medications to treat vomiting or
stomach upset may also be prescribed.
- Your veterinarian will likely recommend a prescription or special diet for the dog
to reduce the chances of stomach upset following surgery.
Gradually you should be able to transition your dog back to
their old food.
The prognosis will depend on the severity of the damage caused
by the obstruction, the presence of any other issues (such as
bloat), and how soon you seek treatment. Always contact your veterinarian if you
notice any unusual symptoms or suspect that your dog has
swallowed something indigestible.
How to Prevent a Dog Bowel Obstruction
Most bowel obstructions are caused by ingested foreign objects.
Therefore, dogs should be discouraged from chewing or picking
up items that are not intended for consumption. Tempting items
should be kept on high shelves or locked away in cupboards,
trash cans and closets should be secured, and dogs should be
supervised when exploring outside or in new environments.
In addition, some veterinarians take issue with certain items
intended for dogs, such as rawhides, hooves, and pig ears since
large pieces can be broken off and end up lodged in the GI
tract. Ask your veterinarian to recommend appropriate chews and toys for your dog.
Never give your dog cooked bones, as they splinter easily and
commonly cause obstruction.
Wondering what would you do for your cat. well, don't worry, we
have got you covered. Head to the next section where you can
find all the details regarding the cat's bowel obstruction.
How To Identify A Cat Bowel Obstruction
Cats have a reputation for being curious creatures, and
sometimes that curiosity means they get into things they
shouldn’t. If your cat chews up or swallows something
indigestible while exploring, it could mean serious trouble for
their bowels. A bowel obstruction, or gastrointestinal
obstruction, is any partial or complete blockage that prevents
foods and fluids from moving normally through the GI tract.
A bowel obstruction can affect digestion, and in severe cases,
it can also lead to poor blood circulation to the bowels.
Without treatment, poor blood circulation can lead to shock,
tissue death, and septic peritonitis (a life-threatening
infection that occurs when tissues deteriorate and dangerous
contents leak into the abdomen).
In some cases, a blockage may pass on its own. In others, a cat
will require surgery. Always contact your veterinarian if
you suspect that your cat has swallowed something indigestible.
Read on to learn all about cat bowel obstruction.
Causes of Cat Bowel Obstruction
An obstruction can occur in either the stomach (gastric outflow
obstruction) or in the small intestines (small intestinal
obstruction). There are many factors that can cause either type
of obstruction, but the most common is ingestion of a foreign
object. Sticks, rocks, toys, string, fabrics, and just about
anything else your cat can get their paws on can be swallowed
and become lodged in the GI tract. Kittens are at particular risk
because they tend to ingest objects indiscriminately.
Certain medical conditions can also contribute to the formation
of a blockage, including tumors, hernias, roundworm infestation,
gastroenteritis (inflammation of the GI tract), gastritis
(inflammation of stomach lining), intestinal stricture
(narrowing of the intestine), torsion (twisted intestine),
pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the stomach area that connects
to the small intestine), and intussusception (in which a
portion of the small intestine slides into the next like a
Symptoms of Cat Bowel Obstruction
The symptoms that your cat exhibits can vary depending on the
location of the blockage in the GI tract and whether the
blockage is complete or partial. Symptoms may include:
Vomiting (intermittent if
partial blockage, more frequent and without relief if
complete blockage). The vomiting may be projectile if in the
upper small intestines, and may be brown and fecal-smelling
if in the lower GI tract.
- If partial blockage, diarrhea. If complete blockage, the
cat may not defecate or pass gas.
- Abdominal swelling
- Abdominal pain
Loss of appetite
Treatment for Cat Bowel Obstruction
If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a bowel
your veterinarian. They will most likely use an x-ray or
ultrasound to reveal the obstruction. In some cases, a gastric
endoscopy may be necessary. A gastric endoscopy is a procedure
in which a tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the
cat’s GI tract. If the blockage is small and reachable, your
veterinarian may even be able to use endoscopic tools to remove
it during exploration.
If the obstruction cannot be located with any of the above
means, exploratory abdominal surgery may be recommended. This
surgery will require general anesthesia and will allow your
veterinarian to look for and hopefully remove the
For most cats, the goals of treatment will be stabilizing the
cat’s condition, removing the obstruction, and repairing any
issues damaged by the obstruction.
- Many cats will need to be stabilized at the hospital with
intravenous fluids and electrolytes
- Abdominal surgery, or a laparotomy, will be required for
many cats, especially those with obstructions in the small
- If the cat has torsion (twisted intestine), the
veterinarian will perform a gastropexy. This involves
untwisting the intestine and tacking it to the side of the
stomach to prevent it from twisting again.
- If parts of the bowels have deteriorated or died, your
veterinarian may remove the affected sections and then suture
the remainder back together.
Antibiotics are commonly
prescribed following surgery to ward off infection.
Painkillers and medications to manage stomach upset may also
- Cats can begin eating again once the obstruction is removed
and the vomiting has subsided. However, you should start your
cat out on a bland food or one recommended by your veterinarian
before returning them to their normal diet.
The prognosis for bowel obstruction can vary and will depends
on the severity of the obstruction, what damage has been
caused, and how soon you seek treatment. Obstructions can be
very serious and many result in death, so it is important to see your
veterinarian at the first sign of trouble.
Protect your cat from bowel obstruction by discouraging
inappropriate chewing and consumption of indigestibles. Keep
any dangerous objects that your cat might find tempting away
from reach, and ask your
veterinarian to recommend toys that will keep your cat
both entertained and safe.
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