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Dog Intestinal Blockage Surgery

Your dog needs intestinal blockage surgery and you have all kinds of questions. In this article, our San Diego vets discuss intestinal blockages in dogs, and how surgery is used to repair the issue.

Dog Intestinal Blockages

An intestinal blockage is a very serious condition in dogs. Our canine friends are curious creatures who explore the world with their mouths. Unfortunately, sometimes this can lead to them ingesting foreign objects such as toys, robe fibers, string, or your favorite pair of headphones. - seasoned dog parents know the list of possibilities is endless. 

In older dogs, common bowel obstructions include masses and tumors. Abdominal bloat - typically seen in bigger dogs - is another common reason dogs may require intestinal (abdominal) surgery

This can lead to your dog suddenly falling ill and needing immediate veterinary attention due to a common problem: bowel obstruction. 

Our vets have seen several cases of dogs' stomachs or intestines becoming partially or completely blocked. These blockages can cause several potential complications, preventing food and water from passing through the GI tract and decreasing blood flow. 

Signs of Intestinal Blockage in a Dog

When it comes to dog intestinal blockages, you may notice the following:

  • Visible bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • The abdomen is painful to the touch
  • Restlessness
  • Whining, hunching, or other signs of abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry heaving or vomiting
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched

If these signs are caught early and you get to the vet in time for surgery, your dog should recover just fine.

The Fatality of Intestinal Blockages in Dogs

For a dog with an intestinal blockage, the timeline between the incident and treatment must be short. Missing these signs of bowel obstruction and abdominal twisting can lead to very serious consequences. Left untreated, complications typically lead to fatality within 3 to 7 days. 

Unfortunately, large and giant breed dogs, including Great Danes, tend to fall ill within hours of stomach twisting. Since this is a veterinary emergency, these pooches should immediately be rushed to your closest veterinarian or emergency clinic that performs emergency surgery.

Preparing for Your Dog's Intestinal Surgery

When you bring your dog in for emergency care at Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam to assess your dog's case, focusing on the abdomen. Blood work may be taken to determine whether the blockage is impacting your dog's general health. 

From there, imaging and diagnostic tests will be done to find the foreign object. Endoscopy is one of these tests. During the procedure, a small tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted through your dog's throat and into the stomach while your dog is sedated. 

In some cases, the foreign object can be retrieved during this procedure. If this is not the case, an ultrasound or X-rays may be taken to determine the nature and location of the obstruction. Your dog may also be provided with IV fluids if they are dehydrated. These fluids can also encourage the GI tract to push the blockage through the intestines, and out of the body. 

While some foreign objects will pass on their own, others will require surgery. If your vet finds that the foreign object is putting your dog's health in immediate, grave danger, surgery will be recommended. 

The Procedure & What to Expect

After your dog has been prepared for the surgery, an incision will be made along your dog's abdomen near the blockage site. When the gastrointestinal tract is exposed (exteriorized) to the outside of the body, we'll be able to find the foreign body or mass that's blocking the bowels. Another incision is made to remove the obstruction. This process is called enterotomy or gastronomy. 

Depending on your dog's case and whether the obstruction has caused too much damage or if the mass is too large, the bowel may need to be removed (resection and anastomosis). In rare circumstances, the stomach or bowels can't be saved during surgery, and euthanasia is required. The procedure typically takes between 1 and 4 hours. For less severe cases, dogs will typically need to be hospitalized for between 3 and 7 days.

Recovery After Surgery

As your dog recovers from intestinal blockage surgery, the first 72 hours after the procedure are the most critical. If your pup is doing well after 72 hours, they will usually recover well. However, watch out for these potential complications.

  • Sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • Hypoalbuminemia (low protein count)
  • Dehiscence (wound opening or separation)

Make sure to monitor your dog closely and keep them calm while limiting their activity to prevent the tearing of the sutures. Your pooch will need to wear a surgical cone to keep them from licking or chewing on the incision that's healing. 

Before your dog transitions back to his original diet, it's important to feed your pup small amounts of bland food and ensure they get enough fluids to prevent dehydration. 

Your pet will be anesthetized during surgery to prevent pain during the procedure. Keep in mind that your pup may feel nauseated after surgery - don't panic if they vomit. 

While your dog won't feel pain during this major surgery, he or she will likely be in some pain afterward. Pain medication will be prescribed by your vet. Remember to follow the prescription's instructions carefully to manage your dog's pain at home. Along with pain medication, your veterinarian might also prescribe medications to help with nausea and vomiting if required.

Intestinal Surgery Success Rate

Your dog's survival following surgery to have an intestinal blockage removed depends on the following:

  • Your dog's health pre-surgery
  • The foreign object's size, shape, and location
  • How long the foreign object has been stuck in the intestines

We will assess your dog's specific case, then review the diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis with you. This is in addition to addressing any questions or concerns you may have.

    How Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center Can Help

    Sudden illnesses, incidents, accidents, or injuries can happen at any time. Intestinal blockages in dogs require emergency, lifesaving intervention. We do everything in our power to ensure your pet's surgery is as positive and stress-free an experience as possible.  

    At Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center, we are committed to explaining any procedure your pet may need, the process, cost estimate, and any follow-up or at-home care needed. We provide a cost estimate and sit with you to review options before performing any procedure.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

    Is your dog showing signs of an intestinal blockage or another veterinary emergency? Contact our San Diego vets right away!

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    Kearny Mesa Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Diego companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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