signs of a bowel obstruction in dogs

Bowel Obstruction: Signs in Dogs Revealed

Since dogs are curious animals and experience much of their world through their mouths, a bowel obstruction can occur at any time. If you have a puppy at home they are more prone to blockages because they have a tendency to chew on anything. Whenever something is eaten that can not be digested, there is a potential that it can form a bowel obstruction. It could be a tennis ball, some of your kid’s socks, or other more serious items like a rock or some garbage. Below are some of the symptoms to be on the lookout for if you suspect your dog has a blockage.

If your dog is acting differently than normal after eating something it should not have, it could be an indication of a bowel obstruction. The best thing to do is monitor your dog for any changes in behavior and contact your veterinarian if the dog gets any of the symptoms below.

Symptoms of a bowel obstruction in a dog.

  • Vomiting, inability to hold down any food or water
  • Diarrhea happens with partial blockage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal tenderness and whining

If your dog is suffering from any of these symptoms and you suspect the dog ate something that could have caused a bowel obstruction, call your veterinarian immediately. The dog should be seen by a professional to check for a blockage or obstruction. The veterinarian might need to perform an ultrasound or a simple radiograph to check for any obstruction in the dog’s GI tract.

What causes a bowel obstruction in dogs?

The bowel obstruction can be caused by any object that the dog eats that is not digestible. Some common items for a bowel obstruction are – tennis balls, rocks, larger bones, kid’s clothing(sometimes these pass ok), and sticks. If your dog can swallow it and it does not break down with normal digestive processes, it can cause a blockage or obstruction.

how to prevent bowel obstruction

How can you prevent obstructions in dogs?

The easiest way to prevent them is to not leave your dog unattended with anything it can chew on and potentially swallow. This includes leaving softer chew toys in the dog’s crate while you are away. Even a simple bone that the dog eats on a regular basis can cause an issue if it is not chewed enough. Offer your dog plenty of healthy chew items and replace any that become damaged enough that they can swallow pieces.

If you have a younger dog or a puppy, promote healthy chewing with toys that can not be easily swallowed. If the toy starts falling apart and the stuffing is coming out, replace it immediately with a new one. Do not let the puppy chew on sticks or other non-food items that are not deemed puppy-safe toys. The real key to puppies is to constantly monitor them, even if they don’t get into serious trouble, they can easily destroy a pair of shoes or a couch if left unattended only for a few minutes.

There are also some food items that should not be left where your dog can reach them. Fruits with larger pits like mangos or nectarines can cause intestinal blockages if they are ingested by a dog. Dogs are often attracted to their sweet smell and taste, so it is best to leave them out of reach. If you follow those simple rules, you should be able to prevent an incident before it even happens.

Testing for bowel obstruction in dogs

Make no mistake, a bowel obstruction is in fact a medical emergency for dogs. The dog should be brought to the veterinarian as soon as possible if it has a suspected obstruction in its bowels. The veterinarian will have to do a thorough examination of the dog including checking for tenderness, a radiograph, or even an ultrasound. Depending on how long ago the dog ate the object they may determine that it needs to be surgically removed. If the object is on the smaller side and the dog does not have tenderness, they may decide to treat the secondary conditions and see if the obstruction passes.

The first thing the vet will usually do is poke around on the dog’s underbelly. This is to check for tenderness. If the dog experiences pain or whining, it is a good indication of a blockage. The next thing the veterinarian will do is either an ultrasound or a radiograph depending on how equipped the office is. If there is a visual indication of a blockage on the ultrasound, the veterinarian will make a recommendation on the next steps.

Treatment for bowel obstruction in dogs

To be clear this should not be treated at home! Take your dog to the veterinarian and follow their recommendations. In some instances, the object can pass on its own. The veterinarian may want to just monitor the dog for any further changes in the animal’s behavior. They may push fluids via an IV drip and give medicine for nausea and vomiting.

In the worst-case scenario, the dog will have to undergo surgery with anesthesia. Sometimes the only thing that can be done is the surgical removal of the foreign body. Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation, you have some good pet insurance to help cover the costs. It can be quite expensive depending on where you live to remove the foreign body. If surgery is the only option, the vet will usually keep the dog for a few days post-surgery to monitor for any other issues that arise.

For a more detailed look at what the surgery involves, check out the information on Carlsbad animal hospital’s website.

Why I don’t recommend Raw Hide Chew Toys

Quite a few years back I owned a dachshund, she was a full-sized one. One day we were letting her chew on a rawhide toy. All of a sudden she was hiding in a corner and we went to see what she was doing. Pretty soon after we found her she started spewing foam from her mouth. It was nothing as I had ever seen before. It was not like normal vomit, it was white frothy foam coming from her mouth.

I didn’t know what to do and this was before the internet so I called my mom who is a nurse to see what to do. As I was describing what she was doing, the dog let out a yelp and vomited the entire contents of her stomach out. After a few more minutes she vomited some more and pretty much all of the rawhide chew came out. Now I can’t clearly say that this was going to be a bowel obstruction, but I believe if she had not vomited it up, it could have easily become a blockage.

As a result of that issue and a few other smaller ones, I no longer use rawhide chews. We only give our dog actual bones or beef cheeks to chew on. They seem to be more digestible than rawhide chews.

raw hide chews can cause GI issues
Don’t feed your dog rawhide, there are safer alternatives.

Dog bowel obstruction home remedy?

If you suspect your dog has a bowel obstruction, call the veterinarian immediately, and do not attempt to treat it at home. However, if you suspect your dog just has a case of constipation there are a few things you can do. One thing that works partially well is to feed the dog some canned pumpkins. The excess fiber helps the dog to relieve itself and it does work pretty quickly.

Dog intestinal blockage timeline

The first phase of the blockage starts when the object is first ingested until around the 2-hour mark. In the first two hours, the object will stay in the dog’s stomach. After about 2 hours passes it will start to move into the large intestines. Depending on many factors, the object can become a blockage right away or it may not become an obstruction until it hits the lower intestine. The entire process can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days.

The first two hours are the most critical, in this window, you might be able to induce vomiting to remove the object from the dog. This should be under the instruction of the veterinarian. If you can not get a hold of a veterinarian or don’t have access to one you can induce vomiting on your own.

Partial bowel obstruction in dogs symptoms

While less common, a partial obstruction can occur. With this type of blockage, some food is still able to pass the obstruction and continue through its normal course. If a dog is partially blocked it can still have the same symptoms as a complete blockage. This situation should also be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Some form of intervention may be required to clear the blockage.

Summary: Bowel obstruction in dogs.

  • Bowel obstructions in dogs can be life-threatening and should be treated by a qualified vet.
  • If the foreign body was consumed less than two hours ago you might be able to induce vomiting to prevent further issues for certain objects inducing vomiting is the worst thing that can be done.
  • Be Mindful of what you feed your dog, watermelon rinds, honeydew rinds, mango seeds, and other seemingly harmless fruits can cause issues
  • If your dog suffers from a bowel obstruction, after surgery you may need to help the dog gain weight.
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