Bowel Obstruction in Dogs: Warning Signs, Indications & Treatment

Bowel obstructions in dogs can seriously threaten their health and well-being. These obstructions occur when a dog’s stomach or intestines become partially or completely blocked, hindering the normal passage of food and water through the gastrointestinal tract. If left untreated, bowel obstructions can lead to severe complications and even prove fatal within days.

Imagine the discomfort and pain your furry companion would experience if their abdomen became tender to the touch, causing restlessness and bloating. They may struggle to defecate, lose their appetite, and exhibit signs of weakness and dehydration. The distressing reality is that bowel obstructions can turn a playful and lively dog into a lethargic and suffering pet, leaving you feeling helpless and concerned for their well-being.

Fortunately, prompt veterinary care is the key to addressing bowel obstructions in dogs effectively. By recognizing the signs and symptoms, such as whining, aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, you can take swift action to ensure your dog receives the necessary treatment. Seeking immediate assistance from a qualified veterinarian is crucial, as they can diagnose the obstruction, determine its location, and provide the appropriate treatment options, ultimately restoring your dog’s health and vitality.

Please note: The advice provided in this post is for informational purposes only and does not substitute professional veterinary advice. It is essential to consult with your veterinarian to obtain an accurate diagnosis and tailored guidance for your pet’s specific needs.

How Dogs Develop Bowel Obstructions

Bowel obstructions, also referred to as intestinal blockages, occur when a dog’s stomach or intestines become partially or fully blocked. These blockages can lead to various complications, such as hindering the passage of food and water through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and reducing blood flow. It’s crucial to recognize that bowel obstructions in dogs can be life-threatening within a span of 3-7 days.

The Dangers of Bowel Obstructions in Dogs

Bowel obstructions can manifest at any point along a dog’s digestive system. Some may get stuck in the esophagus, while others might make their way to the stomach but not reach the intestines. Additionally, obstructions can occur in the intricate twists and turns of a dog’s intestines. Foreign bodies are the primary cause of bowel obstructions, posing risks when dogs ingest items like underwear, socks, dish towels, toys, and particularly hazardous materials such as string, yarn, and rope fibers that can lead to intestinal twisting. Older dogs are also prone to bowel obstructions caused by masses and tumors.

Identifying Common Causes of Bowel Obstructions

Bowel obstructions can stem from various factors, including the ingestion of foreign objects, which is the most prevalent cause. Dogs have a tendency to swallow unexpected items, such as underwear, socks, dish towels, and toys, putting them at risk. Certain materials like string, yarn, and rope fibers are especially dangerous as they can result in intestinal twisting. It is essential to be vigilant for masses and tumors in older dogs, as they can also cause bowel obstructions.

Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms of Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

It is crucial to be aware of the following symptoms, which may indicate the presence of bowel obstructions in dogs:

  • Tender abdomen upon touch
  • Restlessness
  • Straining or inability to defecate
  • Bloating
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Whining
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Although these symptoms may initially appear as mere stomach upset, it is important not to dismiss them, especially if your dog has ingested a foreign object or displays any of the aforementioned signs. In such cases, immediate veterinary assistance is crucial.

Urgent Action Required: Seeking Veterinary Care for Bowel Obstructions

If you suspect that your dog has ingested something unusual or exhibits any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is imperative to contact your veterinarian as quickly as possible. Bowel obstructions can lead to severe complications and become life-threatening if left untreated. Rapid veterinary intervention is essential to diagnose and treat the condition effectively, ensuring the well-being and health of your beloved canine companion.

Diagnosing Dog Bowel Obstructions

Diagnosing bowel obstructions in dogs involves a series of steps to determine the location and severity of the blockage. The veterinarian will begin by conducting a physical examination, paying close attention to the abdomen.

Blood work may be performed to assess the overall health of the dog and determine the impact of the obstruction. Diagnostic imaging techniques such as X-rays and endoscopy may be used to visualize the obstruction.

Endoscopy involves the insertion of a small tube with a camera into the dog’s throat and stomach, performed under sedation. These diagnostic measures help in identifying the presence and nature of the foreign object causing the obstruction.

Treating Dog Bowel Obstructions

The treatment approach for bowel obstructions in dogs depends on several factors, including the obstruction’s location, duration, and characteristics. 

In some cases, non-surgical methods such as endoscopy can be used to retrieve the foreign object. However, if non-surgical approaches are not feasible or successful, further diagnostic techniques like ultrasound or X-rays are employed to determine the exact location of the obstruction. 

Urgency is crucial in treating bowel obstructions, as time is of the essence. If the object does not pass naturally and poses an immediate threat, surgery will be necessary to remove the obstruction and restore normal digestive function. The chosen treatment method aims to resolve the obstruction and ensure the dog’s well-being.

Performing Surgery: Restoring Intestinal Health in Dogs

Intestinal blockage surgery is a significant procedure that requires anesthesia for dogs. Following the surgery, your furry companion must remain hospitalized for several days to facilitate recovery.

During the intestinal surgery, your veterinarian will make a careful incision near the site of the blockage in your dog’s abdomen. The objective is to extract the obstructing object with precision. The duration of the surgery may vary, as there might be a need to address any damage caused to the stomach or intestinal wall by the obstruction.

The survival outcome after intestinal blockage surgery depends on several factors, including the duration of the foreign object’s presence in the intestines, the pre-surgery health of your dog, and the size, shape, and location of the obstruction. The thorough physical examination and diagnostic tests performed prior to the surgery provide valuable insights into your dog’s potential recovery. However, it is crucial to prioritize prompt surgery whenever possible, as it enhances the overall prognosis.

Assisting Your Dog’s Healing Journey Following Bowel Obstruction Surgery

The initial 72 hours following surgery are of utmost importance for your dog’s recovery. If the patient demonstrates positive progress during this critical period, they typically have a good chance of overall recovery. However, it’s essential to remain aware of potential complications, including wound separation or opening (dehiscence), low protein count (hypoalbuminemia), and sepsis (blood poisoning).

Post-Surgery Care and Monitoring

After the surgery and hospitalization, close monitoring and limited activity are necessary for your dog. Engage them in short walks for at least a week to prevent suture tearing. Additionally, your dog will be required to wear a protective cone to discourage licking or chewing of the incision area as it heals.

Feeding and Fluid Management

Feeding your dog small portions of bland food is crucial during the recovery period. Gradually transitioning them back to their regular diet is recommended. Adequate fluid intake is also essential to prevent dehydration.

Learn about easily digestive meals for dogs here: How To Boil Chicken For Dogs A Step-By-Step Guide

Pain Management and Medication

Major surgery involves post-operative pain. While your dog won’t experience pain during the surgery itself, they may feel discomfort afterward. Your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate pain medication to manage your dog’s pain at home and prevent infections. It is crucial to follow the prescribed instructions diligently.

Managing Nausea and Vomiting

Anesthesia can cause nausea in dogs, and vomiting is a common occurrence post-surgery. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to alleviate your dog’s nausea and vomiting, ensuring their comfort during the recovery process.

Understanding the Cost of Bowel Obstruction Surgery

The cost of intestinal blockage surgery for your dog varies depending on factors such as the extent of the surgery, the duration of the obstruction, the length of the hospital stay, and other individual considerations. It is advisable to consult with your veterinarian to gain a better understanding of the specific costs associated with your dog’s surgery and recovery.

Preventing Bowel Obstructions in Dogs: Essential Measures to Safeguard Your Canine Companion

Keeping your dog safe from intestinal blockages is crucial, and there are effective steps you can take to minimize the risk of such incidents.

  1. Supervise Playtime: Keep a watchful eye on your dog while they engage in play with toys or chew on rawhide or bones. Promptly remove any damaged or broken pieces that could be swallowed.
  2. Home Awareness: Stay vigilant regarding the items in your home and take note when any go missing. Dogs can be curious and may ingest household objects that are within their reach. Keep potential hazards out of their access to prevent accidental ingestion.
  3. Garbage and Debris Control: Avoid letting your dog scavenge through garbage and debris, both indoors and outdoors. Dispose of waste properly and securely to prevent your dog from consuming harmful substances or foreign objects.
  4. Secure Items: Place items that your dog may be tempted to eat out of their reach. This includes small objects, toxic substances, and anything that could be easily swallowed and cause an obstruction.

Please note: The advice provided in this post is for informational purposes only and does not substitute professional veterinary advice. It is essential to consult with your veterinarian to obtain an accurate diagnosis and tailored guidance for your pet’s specific needs.

Safeguarding Your Dog’s Digestive Health: Be Proactive Against Bowel Obstructions

Ensuring the well-being of your furry companion goes beyond addressing issues when they arise. By proactively taking steps to prevent bowel obstructions, you can safeguard your dog’s digestive health and provide them with a happier, healthier life. By implementing simple yet effective measures, such as supervising playtime, maintaining home awareness, controlling garbage and debris, and securing potentially hazardous items, you can significantly reduce the risk of intestinal blockages.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. By being attentive to your dog’s surroundings, keeping a close eye on their activities, and taking proactive measures, you can minimize the chances of them ingesting non-food material that could lead to bowel obstructions.

While these preventive measures are vital, it’s important to note that regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and appropriate exercise are equally essential for your dog’s overall well-being. By partnering with your veterinarian and staying informed about potential risks, you can work together to provide the best possible care for your beloved canine companion.

Take charge of your dog’s digestive health today and be proactive in preventing bowel obstructions. By doing so, you can ensure a happier, healthier, and obstruction-free future for your furry friend.

Corey Turner
Corey Turner, owner of, draws on a lifelong love for dogs and extensive pet ownership to offer a unique perspective in the pet industry. With a successful background in project management, he excels in critical analysis, precise attention to detail, and quality assurance. This expertise allows him to effectively differentiate true value from marketing hype in the pet sector. Corey’s contributions have been featured in various publications including Rockery Press Guide Books and During his free time, he enjoys disc golfing, rock climbing, and bonding with his cherished FurBall friend, Harvey.