How To Treat And Prevent A Dog Bowel Obstruction bowel obstruction in dogs, gastrointestinal, stomach, bloat, torsion

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Bowel obstruction is a complete or partial blockage of the GI tract preventing food and blood to flow to the bowels. This is more than likely caused by your dog eating some type of foreign object. A bowel obstruction is very pain and can be quite dangerous. It is important to contact your vet immediately for treatment options.

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 inflammatory condition).

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 shouldnโ€™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 telescope).

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.
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment for Cat Bowel Obstruction

If you suspect that your cat is suffering from a bowel obstruction, contact 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 catโ€™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 obstruction.

For most cats, the goals of treatment will be stabilizing the catโ€™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 intestine.

  • 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 be prescribed.

  • 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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