About animals

Intestinal obstruction in a dog


Bowel obstruction in dogs or Ileus (from the Greek. Eileo stuff, twist, remove, obstruct) - mechanical bowel obstruction.

Bowel obstruction is a serious problem that threatens the life of the animal, in many cases it is guaranteed lethal if the operation is not performed on time.

Causes of bowel obstruction in dogs

There are several different causes of intestinal obstruction:

  • Obstruction of the intestine with calculi, foreign bodies (bones, stones, ropes, polyethylene, synthetic winterizer from toys, etc.) - obstructive ileus (obturatio, lat. Clogging). In small puppies with severe helminthic invasion, cases of obstruction are described when the intestines become clogged with helminthes. This usually happens after deworming and the death of parasites.
  • Obstruction due to mishandling, infringement, intestinal invagination - strangulation ileus (lat. Strangulatio - strangulation from the Greek. Στραγγ? Λη - loop, gallows).
    This type of obstruction includes such dangerous phenomena as inversion of the stomach and infringement of a hernia.
  • Due to embolism of the intestinal vessels (blockage of blood vessels by air bubbles, fat).

Symptoms of bowel obstruction in dogs

Symptoms of intestinal obstruction are not always pronounced and depend on the particular case, on the characteristics of the animal’s body.

As a rule, the most striking symptoms occur with problems associated with the stomach and duodenum. In such cases, repeated vomiting usually occurs, severe pain, rapid deterioration of the general condition of the patient. On the one hand, an acute illness with a severe course is bad for the patient and leads to a rapid depletion of the vital forces of the body, but on the other hand, this condition forces owners and doctors to act quickly, efficiently, and this is good, because Diagnostics does not stretch over time.

In the absence of obvious symptoms with intestinal obstruction, you can usually observe lethargy of the animal, refusal of food, periodically - vomiting, which does not seem to be the main symptom, but it may not be at all.

In such cases, an X-ray study is a very valuable diagnostic method.

Diagnosis of bowel obstruction in dogs

If you suspect intestinal obstruction after a medical examination, it is necessary to take x-rays of the abdominal cavity, preferably in two projections, i.e. picture in the position on the side and in the position on the back. Since we see a two-dimensional picture on X-ray images - a shadow from a three-dimensional (three-dimensional) body of an animal, the contours of different organs overlap each other, and only by taking pictures in two projections, it is possible to understand where these or those structures are visible in the picture. In these images, one can see radiopaque substances, the density of which is much higher than the density of the soft tissues of the body and radiolucent lesions, as a rule, foci of gas formation, the density of which, on the contrary, is much lower than the density of soft tissues.

Balls from the children's magnetic constructor "Neocub" in the pug’s stomach.

In addition, on x-rays you can see signs of peritonitis - inflammation of the serous membranes of the abdominal cavity with fluid effusion. Such a finding, combined with signs of intestinal obstruction, usually indicates a possible perforation of the intestine and the need for urgent surgery.

Ultrasound examination (ultrasound) can also provide valuable information about the presence of fluid in the abdominal cavity and its amount, as well as the presence of pendulum-like bowel movements - a specific symptom of intestinal obstruction.

Detection of contrasting foreign objects, as a rule, allows you to quickly and unequivocally make a diagnosis and invite the owners of the animal to start preparing the pet for surgery.

Significant foci of gassing in the intestine may be indirect signs of intestinal obstruction. However, indirect signs require verification of the diagnosis. Since we are talking about the need for surgery, both the doctor and the owner always want maximum certainty.

In cases where a simple x-ray examination does not give us a clear understanding of the problem, the next step in the diagnosis is an x-ray with contrast. Barium sulfate, a white powder without taste and odor (like chalk), which is not absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, is used as a contrast medium, and is seen as a bright white (contrast) spot on x-rays. Barium sulfate is mixed in kefir and evaporated to the animal. As a rule, this has to be done by force. First, it is necessary to give the patient an antiemetic injection so that the study does not complete before it starts.

Foam impregnated with barium sulfate in the ferret’s stomach

After giving contrast, a series of x-rays are taken at specific time intervals, evaluating the passage of contents along the gastrointestinal tract. And if the contents do not pass a certain time before the rectum, this allows us to diagnose intestinal obstruction and offer surgery as the only effective treatment option.

Dog bowel obstruction

You need to understand that the treatment of obstruction in dogs and cats is surgery. The exception is some foreign objects located in the stomach, sometimes in the duodenum, which can be removed by gastroscopy. We actively use gastroscopy in cases where it is likely to solve the obstruction problem without using a scalpel. However, far from always treatment with this method is possible.

When making a diagnosis of "intestinal obstruction", it is important, without wasting time, to conduct all standard examinations before anesthesia and to operate on the animal.

Emotionally, it is always difficult for the owner to decide to give his animal for an operation, but in case of intestinal obstruction this is the only salvation.

Mortality in most cases is one hundred percent, if the animal does not receive surgical care. This is especially important with such a formidable disease as stomach twisting, which most often suddenly and quickly develops in dogs of large (much less often - medium and small) breeds.

Inversion of the stomach in a dog

In the case of stomach twisting, it is fundamentally important to provide assistance as quickly as possible, the loss of even half an hour can cost the animal life.

In any case, it is important to contact qualified specialists for any pet health problems without wasting time.

The author of the article:
veterinarian surgeon
Bessonov Anton Valerevich

Causes of intestinal obstruction

Violation of the normal patency of feces is often found in dogs. This pathology can be associated with a variety of etiological factors:

  • hit of stones, rags, bones and other solid objects,
  • wool (especially in long-haired breeds),
  • the formation of intestinal calculi,
  • bowel twisting,
  • intestinal invagination,
  • violation of motility, secretory function.

Most often, acute obstruction is observed in dogs after eating solid solid objects. These include bones, stones, rags, wood. As a result, such objects block the intestinal lumen, preventing the normal movement of feces. Gradually, the intestines become more clogged, complicating the pathological condition.

The gradual development of obstruction, manifested at the initial moment by partial blockage, usually occurs due to the ingress of wool, impaired digestive function. The hair in the intestines of the dog forms balls, which are gradually impregnated with fodder masses, salts, which leads to their hardening. Such stones at an early stage cannot completely block the intestinal lumen, as a result, anxiety attacks, periodic constipation are noted in dogs.

Intussusception, infringement and twisting of the intestine is accompanied by an acute attack of abdominal pain. Colic is permanent or intermittent. Other signs of pathology against their background are not so noticeable. The causes of these pathologies:

  • excessive motor function
  • weakening of the intestinal ligaments,
  • a sharp change in body position (fall, somersaults),
  • foreign bodies.

Closely associated with obstruction is constipation and constipation - complete absence or difficulty in defecation. Reduced locomotor activity, a stressful situation can lead to this. Some drugs disrupt the motor and secretory function of the intestine. Symptoms are characteristic of diseases of the nervous system (damage to the cerebellum, spinal cord, dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system).

Clinical picture and additional studies

In dogs with incomplete obstruction, periodic anxiety attacks are noted. During periods of remission, pets have a normal appetite - dogs consume food and water, and feces normally go away or with little difficulty. Attacks are repeated every 2-5 days, accompanied by the following changes:

  • anxiety,
  • constipation,
  • rapid breathing and palpitations,
  • hyperthermia
  • decreased appetite.

A similar clinical picture is characteristic of lesions of the large intestine. With obstruction of the thin section in dogs, an acute picture is observed. Vomiting immediately after ingestion. The appetite is reduced, the thirst is moderate. At the early stage, weak flatulence is observed, which is gradually replaced by constipation. Palpation of the abdominal wall reveals soreness, in some cases a foreign body can be detected.

When constipation in dogs in the intestines establish an accumulation of solid feces. A digital examination of the rectum reveals a volumetric formation. Also, by palpation, you can install a hernia, the pathology of the anal sinuses and glands.

For differential diagnosis, an overview radiography of the abdominal organs is performed. To improve the examination, it is necessary to enter an enema with barium salts, which allows you to visualize the formation (calculi), accurately determine their position. Changes in the organs are not so obvious, you can determine the thickening of the intestine, displacement.

Ultrasonic signs of intestinal invagination:

  • the formation of multiple circles of different diameters with a single center (target),
  • the formation of an elliptical, bean-shaped form,
  • the distal section resembles a claw of cancer,
  • enlarged intestine before invagination,
  • blurring of visualization at the place of protrusion of the intestine due to necrotic processes.

Ultrasound diagnostics is more informative. With the help of ultrasound, you can accurately establish the area of ​​the pathological process, the cause (tumor, stone, twisting). As additional measures, you can use magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography.

Help the dog with obstruction

The effectiveness of conservative treatment is doubtful. With partial obstruction, you can try to use enemas, laxatives to eliminate constipation. Butif the dog has a complete blockage, then enemas and laxatives will cause a bowel rupture.

Vegetable oils are given to dogs through the mouth to facilitate bowel movements. Use laxatives with caution - it is better to use lactulose and other fruit products that improve the secretion of the digestive glands. Enemas are effective in blocking the large intestine with sand, solid feces.

In most cases, pathology can only be treated with surgery. The operation is performed under general anesthesia. The technique of the operation depends on the cause of the disease (looping, intussusception, blockage).

If there are no signs of necrosis on the wall of the intestine (blood circulation is maintained), then you need to maximize the organ. If a necrotic process is detected, the affected area is completely removed. Technique of operation with a foreign body:

  • the length of the intestinal incision must correspond to the size of the foreign body (stone, bone) to avoid tearing,
  • if sand, solid feces are found, you can get by with a small incision and wash the contents out of the intestine,
  • after removing the foreign body, the state of the intestinal walls is determined, with necrosis, the dead part of the loop should be removed,
  • sutures are placed on the intestine, separately on the mucous membrane, serous and muscle membranes,
  • antibiotics are injected into the abdominal cavity,
  • sutured the abdominal wall and skin.

With invagination, the affected area of ​​the intestine is usually removed. Pre-impose intestinal clamps on both sides, pushing the contents. The edges of the deleted area are sutured and cut. Then, free sections of the intestine are sutured to the end, or, having made an artificial hole, side to side.

Surgery to remove part of the intestine is best avoided, as relapses often develop in this area.

After intestinal surgery, it is necessary to monitor the pet. The first day a hungry diet is prescribed, water is not limited. Then a small amount of broth and liquid cereals are included in the diet. In parallel, parenteral nutrition is carried out - plasma substitutes and nutrient solutions are administered intravenously. A course of antibiotics is prescribed in a therapeutic dosage to prevent a surgical infection. It is important to control the course of recovery - repeated ultrasound allows you to assess the condition of the intestine after surgery.

Preventive actions

In most cases, obstruction is associated with improper feeding of dogs. Most pet owners are sure that the best food is bones, food from the table, and flour products. But the dog’s body is arranged with significant differences from humans. And products that are perfectly absorbed by our intestines lead to pathologies in animals.

Dog bones cannot be considered food. This primarily concerns boiled bones remaining after meat dishes. There are no nutrients in them, and because of the soft structure, they are easily cracked by dogs, and in the intestines turn into sand, blocking the lumen. But fresh bones are not the best option for nutrition - they are only suitable as a toy and a means of combating tartar. And small bones with sharp edges are a great danger to the digestive tract.

The owner needs to ensure that the pet could not eat various household and other items. It is better if the owner is engaged with his dog, teaches her to take food only from him and in a certain place. But even trained dogs can eat a branch or rag during the game, so it’s better to prevent such situations.

Proper nutrition ensures the normal functioning of the digestive system.

Twisting the intestines is rare. It is usually preceded by excessive physical exertion, a fall. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate and normalize physical activity in a dog. If there is a suspicion of an inversion of the stomach or loop of the intestine, it is urgent to go to the veterinary clinic - often delaying more than an hour leads to the death of the dog.


Bowel obstruction in a dog develops for the following reasons:

  1. Swallowing foreign objects. Most often puppies do this. And it's not just about curiosity. The baby is growing, it lacks minerals to form the skeleton.Kids gnaw concrete, tear shoes, clothes. Somehow I had to open a fallen puppy, his whole intestines were stoned.
  2. In adult dogs, bone blockage occurs. The hosts share holiday treats with the pet. The hydrochloric acid of the stomach is not able to dissolve the tubular bones. They slip on and get stuck in a narrow aisle. Poultry products are split lengthwise and dig into the intestinal wall. Food sticks to them, congestion occurs. Possible perforation of the intestinal wall with subsequent peritonitis
  3. Helminthiasis - excessively multiplied worms lead to blockage of the intestine and even to its rupture. (see Dog’s worms)
  4. Overfeeding combined with high activity. The dog starts to jump, the crowded pipe bends. Large dogs - dogs, Dobermans, greyhounds, due to anatomical features are prone to inversion of the intestines.
  5. Clogging of the intestines with rough indigestible food - fragments of the skin, fascia of the tendon, shells of cereal grains.
  6. Pathological whelping. With prolonged squeezing of the intestinal tube with the fetal bladder, compaction of food masses and their adhesion to the mucous membrane are formed.
  7. The formation of intestinal polyps. Benign neoplasms create an obstacle to the passage of food masses.
  8. If the abdominal wall is injured, swelling of the internal organs develops, intestinal loops are pinched. With bruises of the spine, innervation is disturbed, peristalsis ceases, food masses stagnate.
The dog is oppressed.

With complete intestinal obstruction, the lumen is blocked, the food masses do not advance, the gases do not depart, there is no peristalsis. With partial obstruction, digestion is difficult.

According to the speed of development of signs, acute and chronic obstruction are distinguished. In the first case, the pathology is eliminated by conservative methods. Chronic obstruction is treated promptly.


Symptoms of Bowel Obstruction

The following symptoms should alert you:

  • oppression,
  • refusal to drink and eat,
  • lack of stool for more than a day,
  • sore stomach
  • foul smell from the mouth
  • vomiting with fecal matter.
The dog vomits

If feces are found in the vomit, the situation is threatening, indicating complete obstruction.

With partial obstruction, the pathological symptoms recede, the dog drinks and eats, but after 3-4 days the painful condition returns.


To prevent your dog from blocking the intestines, follow these guidelines:

  1. Provide proper nutrition so that the dog does not try to find the necessary minerals in inedible objects.
  2. Teach your pet not to take anything from the floor and the ground. It is not simple. One of my friends weaned a puppy to take meat with an electric magneto. When trying to grab a piece, he twisted the handle and a young Asian shepherd was shocked. Did not help. He picked up something on the street and died at the age of four months. Use the services of a professional trainer.
  3. Use toys that the dog is unable to swallow. Avoid wooden products. The beast can split them and swallow fragments.
  4. Do not give tubular bones. Exceptions are broiler thighs or drumsticks purchased at the store. Despite the impressive size of the carcass, the chick is no more than 7 weeks old, the bones are soft.
  5. Practice quarterly deworming.
  6. Perform preventive examinations in the clinic twice a year.

First signs

As already mentioned above - obstruction, many dog ​​owners take for ordinary poisoning. It is not surprising, because the symptoms of diseases are very similar:

  • weakness,
  • decreased appetite
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • bloating
  • pain in the abdomen.

These are the primary symptoms. If during a walk there is no bowel movement, the animal feels bad, doesn’t eat, the behavior shows pain in the abdomen, then these are most likely signs of intestinal obstruction, and you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

If you ignore the primary symptoms, the pet’s condition will worsen and lead to the following problems:

  • muscle tone of the abdominal cavity will increase, the dog will try to stretch the hind limbs, while straining the tips of the paws,
  • due to the large amount of gas, a strong rumbling in the stomach will begin,
  • frequent prolonged burping with an unpleasant odor,
  • continuous vomiting. It is possible to excrete feces together with vomit.

With such symptoms, the dog can still be saved if you consult a specialist in time. In some cases, a rupture and intestinal necrosis occurs, accompanied by dehydration. Obstruction can be partial, but it is also dangerous and requires contacting a veterinary clinic.

How to help the dog at home?

The main rule for a dog owner who has bowel obstruction is not to self-medicate! No need to force the dog to eat or drink. Do not give antiemetics or laxatives to your pet. Of the permitted drugs are painkillers and antispasmodics.

Even if you are outside the city, you should find the opportunity and deliver the sick animal to the veterinary clinic. A dog with bowel obstruction dies two days after the first symptoms of the disease are detected.

Treatment and diagnosis

To detect the disease, the dog needs to undergo a diagnostic examination, which includes:

  • ultrasound examination of the abdominal cavity,
  • X-ray
  • general tests of urine and blood for the detection of intoxication,
  • examination by a veterinarian, palpation of the abdomen to detect tone and pain.

If the dog ate a foreign body that cannot be seen with an X-ray, a special contrast medium is given to the pet to accurately determine the subject. After some time, the images are repeated, and depending on the movement of contrast through the intestines, it is determined where the blockage occurred.

After locating the clogging site, the veterinarian decides whether it is possible to remove the foreign body without surgery. And if such an opportunity is present, then:

  • washing the intestinal tract of the dog with special drugs,
  • a pet is given a dropper with a medicine that normalizes the digestive tract,
  • as a result of dehydration, saline solution is introduced to normalize the water salt balance,
  • with severe pain symptoms, injections of antispasmodics are given.
    Recovery after blockage without surgery includes:
  • peace
  • balanced diet (meals in small portions several times a day, food only in liquid form),
  • massage of the peritoneum.

In severe cases, an operation is needed in which the doctor determines the bowel lesion and the presence of tears. With necrosis, the affected areas of the intestine are removed.

Recovery after surgery is long. The first and second day after surgery, the dog is not fed, put droppers with saline. For about two weeks, the dog should be under the supervision of a doctor. Depending on the condition, this time may be reduced or increased. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics.

Preventative measures

Prevention refers only to mechanical bowel obstruction. You can protect your dog in the following ways:

  • training, in which the pet must understand well what to eat and what is forbidden,
  • during absenteeism, all accessible small objects that the animal may inadvertently swallow should be removed,
  • if the character of a four-legged friend is capricious and wayward, then walking is done only on a leash and with a muzzle,
  • It is forbidden to feed the dog tubular bones: both raw and boiled,
  • All toys should only be purchased at pet stores.

At the first sign of bowel obstruction and obstruction, the pet owner should contact a veterinary clinic immediately. Ignoring symptoms can be fatal. Be careful and monitor the health of your pet.

Clinical symptoms

To some extent depend on the site of obstruction. Small bowel obstruction is often manifested by acute bouts of indomitable vomiting, excreted before these bowel movements, often liquid (diarrhea) in nature.

In the presence of blood in the feces, it is dark in color and tarry in consistency. A short-term discharge of formalized or liquid feces is observed, after which the symptoms stop. There are animals with short-term obstruction who have had a history of intermittent vomiting and diarrhea.

With invagination, vomiting can be observed along with excretion of feces, which quickly decrease in volume and acquire a bloody character, resembling red currant jelly in appearance. Tumors can partially block the intestines before causing complete obstruction. Often ulcers form, so feces may contain altered or fresh blood.

In all cases, the animals observe not only vomiting and diarrhea, but also dehydration, refusal to eat and depression, and abdominal pain is also possible. Palpating foreign bodies can be difficult due to the free movement of intestinal loops in the abdominal cavity. Invaginations are often palpated as fairly static solid sausage-like structures in a more fixed position. Small tumors are difficult to palpate in the early stages.

First aid and general principles of treatment

Must correspond to the features of the development of this disease. Do not feed or drink categorically! This is the first and main commandment of pre-medical care for animals with increasing vomiting. Everything that a pet swallows in this state will not be absorbed anyway. You can not do an enema!

In most cases, obstruction occurs in the small intestine, inaccessible for washing, and the thinned intestinal wall in the blockage area can simply burst under the pressure of water.

It is not recommended to give a laxative! Intense contractions of the clogged intestine can also lead to its rupture. Antiemetics such as cerucal (metoclopramide) do not actually improve the condition, but only mask the signs of the disease.

Establishing diagnosis

Intestinal obstruction in most cases, a sufficiently careful clinical examination and detailed information about the condition of the animal in the next few days. Contrary to popular belief, x-rays do not always allow you to accurately determine the presence or absence of intestinal obstruction. The fact is that soft and synthetic materials are most often transparent to x-rays, which means that they are indistinguishable in the picture.

There are various assistive technologies for x-ray diagnosis of intestinal obstruction (for example: a study with a contrast medium), but their practical value is relative. If you suspect obstruction, barium is used with caution, since intestinal perforation is possible, as a result of which barium enters the abdominal cavity.

Where can’t resolve. In cases of suspected perforation, gastrographin (Schering Chemicals) is used, which is absorbed, this substance also gives a satisfactory contrast. Ultrasound also does not have sufficient information to detect intestinal obstruction.

Diagnostic Laparotomy

According to most doctors, all animals with suspected intestinal obstruction should have a diagnostic laparotomy. This operation allows you to really examine the entire intestine and stomach and, if necessary, immediately eliminate obstruction.

Many pet owners are seriously scared by the prospect of surgery, and especially anesthesia. In fact, diagnostic laparotomy is a technically simple operation that takes 15-20 minutes and causes the animal much less harm than the time lost in waiting for intestinal obstruction. If the cause is a thread, it is necessary to examine the oral cavity and the pharyngeal cavity, since the end of the thread may get stuck there.


Represents the introduction of the intestine. If invagination has occurred recently, then as a rule, invaginate can be straightened by slightly pulling on the part of the intestine into which it is embedded.

After elimination of invagination, it is necessary to check the viability of the intestine. To do this, control color, blood supply, and especially the peristalsis of the affected segment after irrigation with warm saline.

In addition to surgical intervention, the most important role in the treatment of intestinal obstruction is played by competent and adequate fluid therapy: without replenishing the loss of moisture, salts, and in some cases amino acids, the most successful operation can end in failure.

If the animal is delivered to us in serious condition, we begin intensive infusion therapy before the operation.

Postoperative care

In all cases, we recommend that you do not feed the animal for 2 days and do not drink 1 day. Be sure to prescribe intensive infusion therapy (droppers) for several days, as well as antibiotics. For feeding in the postoperative period, mucus, decoctions are prescribed. If vomiting is not observed, a small amount of diet food or boiled meat can be given.

How to avoid this in the future?

  • The most effective way is to educate your dog not to pick food without permission. This is not easy, training takes time and effort, but subsequently saves nerves and money on going to the doctor.
  • Potentially dangerous objects should not be left in the dog's access, and the animal should be near an open trash. Lift small toys immediately from the floor and put them in a drawer. If you have young children, make sure that they do not start feeding your pet to everyone.
  • Get special chewing treats and toys for your dog that are safe to nibble and swallow. Change rubber balls as they wear out so that the dog does not swallow small pieces from them.
  • If your dog is a “vacuum cleaner” and you know about it, walk it in the muzzle. At the same time, protect the pet from dog hunters, who sometimes scatter poison.
  • Do not feed the dog bones, especially raw and small. They very often get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract and can injure him. Even if you are still lucky, you can never be sure that the blockage that will undermine the health of your pet will not happen tomorrow.