Dog Training

5 tips on how to recognize and properly treat intestinal obstruction in dogs

Your dog may have an intestinal obstruction? Here you can find out what exactly a bowel obstruction is, how you can recognize it in time and what you can do about it. In addition, for this article we have Advice from veterinarian Emin Jasarevic obtained. Note: This article is written for the german country. 

Intestinal obstruction dog
Article Overview

If no help is given, the digestive system can take a dangerous damage and in the worst case your pet can die. 

Structure and function of the digestive system

Dogs belong to the carni-omnivore creatures. So they are for the most part Carnivorebut can also digest cereals and fruit. For the digestion of plants you lack the necessary enzymes.

As the most important nutrients for a healthy organism and vitality are Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals indispensable.

Good digestion and a healthy digestive system are the cornerstone of proper care for your pet and a functioning immune system. 

The intestine has a central role in this process. For a better understanding of intestinal obstruction, knowledge of the function of the digestive tract is significant. 

Digestion begins with the absorption of food into the mouth and ends with the elimination of the unusable remains from the large intestine. 

Your furry nose crushes the food with the teeth in the oral cavity and mixes it with saliva at the same time. The food pulp then passes through the pharynx and down the esophagus. In the stomach.

In the stomach, enzymes are added to the porridge for digestion. At the same time, the hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice destroys introduced and pathogenic bacteria and germs. 

The digested porridge passes further into the small intestinewhere it receives additional digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile. The enzymes cause, that various nutrients are split off from the food pulp. These are important for the functions of the organism.

You get to via the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. The rest of the food is transported by the intestinal villi into the colon. Here, leftover nutrients and water are extracted. 

All the components that the intestine could not digest end up as waste products in the colon. There they push together and condense into a homogeneous form. Your quadruped will excrete them as feces under light pressure.

What is intestinal obstruction and what are the causes?

dog feces

An intestinal obstruction is called in medical language "ileus" called. This is a serious disorder of the permeable passage of the intestine.

The incoming food gets stuck at a blocked point in the system or is not transported further due to intestinal paralysis and thus cannot be processed.

The semi-digested mass gets stuck, accumulates and the organism reacts to the malfunction with various complaints.

Such a disorder can happen in any part of the small intestine, duodenum and colon. 

Medicine distinguishes between two forms of intestinal obstruction:

1. obstructive ileus

At best, this is a mechanical malfunction. Your protégé has a indigestible foreign body swallowedwhich closes the passage in the colon. This may be partial or complete closure.

Possible foreign objects are for example: Wood, bones, stone, shells or toys. Actually, anything that is indigestible comes into question. 

Although the swallowed part can still reach the stomach, it gets stuck in a narrow part of the intestine at the latest. This is where the blockage occurs.

Mechanical intestinal obstruction mainly affects young quadrupeds. The reason for this is that when discovering the world and playing, they like to take objects into their mouths and explore them, swallowing them in the process. 

If a foreign body enters the digestive system, the intestinal loops easily become blocked. If no treatment is given, the disease can lead to death.

  • Likewise, intestinal parts or parasites can block the passage. 
  • Sometimes an invagination, twist, tortuosity, or tumor also constricts or closes the bowel.

 2. paralytic ileus

For this form of intestinal obstruction, a organic disease of the intestine responsible. Worth mentioning are a Nerve disorder, Circulatory disorders and Poisonings.
The result is partial or total paralysis of the organ. Paralytic ileus can affect any dog, but there are also genetic predispositions to it.

What are the symptoms?


If your faithful companion suffers from intestinal obstruction, you can recognize the disease by clear symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite  
  • Gagging, vomiting
  • Constipation 
  • Hard and painful abdominal wall 
  • Severely reddened oral mucous membranes and bad breath 
  • Weight loss
  • Listlessness and disinterest
  • Increased temperature or fever 
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dull coat
All these symptoms are important alarm signals. They tell you that your furry friend has a health problem. Even if the signs seem harmless at first, you should take them seriously. 
If it is a bowel obstruction, it will not go away on its own. 
Instead, your pet's health is progressively deteriorating and taking a dramatic shape.
The intestine can suffer serious damage and there is a risk that the intestinal wall will be severely injured. For this your protégé suffers great pain and becomes a real emergency.

The visit to the vet

Does your furry friend show clear signs of a disease of the digestive system? Then take him to the vet immediately. 

A competent doctor will ask you about your quadruped's behavior because of your suspicions. Thereby he examines the patient thoroughly, palpates the abdomen for indurations, looks at the inside of the mouth, and takes a temperature.

To gain further insight into the disease, he conducts a Ultrasound examination on the abdomen. With this method, even minor changes in the intestine can usually be detected well.

If this examination is not sufficient for a definitive diagnosis, or if surgery is unavoidable, he or she will do a X-ray image from the intestine. In doing so, it may be that in order to visualize details, he gives the animal a Contrast agent must administer. 

Would your veterinarian like to have certainty about the general condition of the organism, he draws blood and orders an examination of the values. 

In some mechanical bowel obstructions, the culprit is a small foreign body. 

If possible, the doctor will try to remove it from the digestive tract in the normal way using oil or another lubricant. However, your protégé must remain under strict observation.

The medical treatment


In most cases, immediate surgery is necessary for intestinal obstruction. Especially in the case of a total occlusion of the passage, this is a serious emergency and life is in danger.

During the procedure, your veterinarian will open the abdominal cavity where the foreign body is located and carefully remove it. If it is another blockage, he removes it if possible.

After a successful operation, the patient must remain in the veterinary practice or clinic for a few days for observation. The administration of Painkillers, infusions and antibiotics accompanies the healing process. 

Once the quadruped has recovered to this point and is stable, he is allowed to go home. For his complete recovery are Gentleness and the loving care the best medicine.

Especially in the beginning you should give your darling supervise all the time. This way you will recognize any complications in time and can act immediately. 

A few more visits to the doctor will be necessary until all is well and your charge is back to full health.

Wear a neck brace

Dogs neck brace

If the wound is still fresh, it must not be touched. It is very important that it remains untouched until the stitches are removed and the scar is stable.

Most quadrupeds try to soothe normal reactions of the wound such as itching, pulling and mild pain by licking, nibbling or scratching.

However, this prevents the tissue from growing together and the wound from finally closing. In addition, pathogenic bacteria from the mouth or paws enter the organism more easily. 

In the worst case, excessive impairment of the healing process will lead to reoperation. 

To prevent all this, your pet should wear a collar until the wound heals. Especially at night when he feels unobserved and he likes to go for it. If you keep a good eye on him and he listens to your commands, you can remove the collar temporarily. 

The alternative to the neck collar is a belly suit, that covers and protects the wound.

When the intestine is clogged

intestinal obstruction

Blockage of the bowel may be a sign of ileus occurring and should be taken seriously. 

If your pet suffers from constipation, he will not be able to defecate despite pressure. The already digested food accumulates in the large intestine and causes a feeling of fullness and severe abdominal pain.

It may also be that the intestine is flaccid, the feces are not emptied properly and parts remain in the intestine. This causes the existing feces to thicken and so-called fecal balls or fecal stones to form. These may be palpable as a hard portion in the intestine. 

If the congestion is not relieved, the constipation increases, the intestinal wall becomes irritated, and the pain intensifies. The result is intestinal obstruction.

For mild constipation, simple remedies can help with defecation:

  • Dietary fiber and Herbal fiber supplements, without sugar get the bowels moving. For a medium-sized dog is enough ½ teaspoon twice a day with meals. 
  • Mix 1-2 spoons Pumpkin from the can under the meal. Also possible are soft fruit, cooked vegetables, oatmeal Regardless, it could also mean that your dog Wheat bran
  • Aloe vera in food or drinking water also has a digestive effect. A maximum of ½ teaspoon daily is sufficient.
  • Do you mix Olive oil into the dog food, it also facilitates the digestive process.
  • It is important that your quadruped always much water drinks, which prevents the constipation from solidifying.
  • Sometimes helps a Diet of boiled rice, 1-2 spoons of milk and meat broth.
  • Physical activities get the bowels moving.

Preventive measures

Dog diagnosis and prevention

By attentively caring for your furry companion, you'll prevent a dangerous intestinal blockage. You save your furry friend and yourself a lot of suffering and stress. Last but not least, you save a lot of costs for treatment.

Here are the tips:

  •  A balanced diet with high quality food and without artificial additives especially counteracts paralytic intestinal obstruction. 
  • Valuable nutrients and fiber keep the intestines running. 
  • Make sure that your four-legged friend drinks enough. The liquid breaks down the food and supports lubrication in the intestine. 
  • Feeding bones should be done with caution. They cannot be digested and can significantly block the transport of food in the intestine. Do you still want to treat your pet to a bone every now and then? Then you should not give him chicken bones. These can splinter. Always stay close to the bone when eating it. In addition, the bones must not be cooked.
  • Toys that can be disassembled with the mouth are taboo. This includes tennis balls, whose fibers pose a great danger to the intestines. You should use only special toys for dogs. Also, it should have a suitable size, be stable and not contain chemical substances. 
  • Especially when your darling is left alone at home, you must Put away or protect chewable items. 
  • Your four-legged friend may no natural materials such as wood, stones and shells. If it gnaws or licks branches conspicuously often, this could be an indication of a lack of food. 
  • Does your pet eat a lot grass, this can also be an indication of constipation. 
  • Do you want to give your dog something for his Biting and chewing urge a suitable tool for this purpose. chew bone. from the pet trade. In addition, this serves at the same time to clean the teeth. 
  • A balanced exercise provides good intestinal activity and mental balance. 
  • If your foster is scratching a lot, rubbing his butt on the floor, an infestation of worms may be the reason. By doing regular fecal exams and/or a Worm cure you will prevent the proliferation of parasites in the gastrointestinal tract and possible blockages. 
  • Regular brushing of the coat and eliminating matting will prevent your faithful companion from picking up too much hair when licking.

Suffers deIf your cat often suffers from constipation despite good husbandry, your veterinarian should check whether the permeability throughout the intestine is in order.

A great help for a species-appropriate attitude of your quadruped and for a content living together as well as protection from dangers, is a successful education. If your pet knows commands like "stop" or "off" you can react in time if necessary.

So you can forbid your protégé to swallow wrong and dangerous prey, he will simply leave it. In addition, you prevent the intake of incompatible or even poisoned food.

Recommendation from the vet

Whether it is an intestinal obstruction or not. If the already mentioned symptoms have appeared in your four-legged friend, it is time to call the vet.

The sooner your veterinarian can diagnose, the better the chances of recovery.

Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion and it is my personal concern to create medically accurate articles and videos to inform pet owners as much as possible.

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