Your dog needs surgery to address an intestinal blockage, and our vets in Vancouver are here to guide you through preparing for the procedure, understanding its details, evaluating the success rate, navigating the recovery process, and providing additional information. 

Dog Intestinal Blockages

Intestinal blockage poses a grave threat to dogs, especially those with a penchant for chewing on various objects. Dogs, being naturally inquisitive, explore the world using their mouths. Still, this behavior can result in ingesting foreign items such as toys, robe fibers, string, or even your cherished pair of headphones—seasoned dog parents know the list of potential culprits is limitless.

Masses or tumors may cause obstructions in older dogs, while larger dogs could encounter abdominal bloat, often requiring abdominal surgery. These conditions can lead to a sudden onset of illness in your dog, necessitating immediate veterinary attention for a common problem: bowel obstruction.

Our veterinarians at Vancouver have witnessed numerous cases where dogs' stomachs or intestines become partially or completely blocked. Such blockages can give rise to several potential complications, hindering the passage of food and water through the GI tract and impeding blood flow.

Signs of Intestinal Blockage in a Dog

When it comes to dog intestinal blockages, symptoms can include:

  • Visible bloating
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • The abdomen is painful to the touch
  • Restlessness
  • Aggressive behavior when the abdomen is touched
  • Whining, hunching, or other signs of abdominal pain (praying position is a dog's classic sign of pain)
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry heaving or vomiting

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

Can a dog die from intestinal blockage?

For a dog with intestinal blockage, keeping the timeline between the incident and treatment short is crucial. Overlooking signs of bowel obstruction and abdominal twisting can result in severe consequences. Untreated complications usually lead to fatality within 3 to 7 days.

Large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, often become ill within hours of stomach twisting. Given the veterinary emergency nature of this situation, it's imperative to promptly transport these pups to the nearest veterinarian or emergency clinic capable of performing emergency surgery.

Preparing for Your Dog's Intestinal Surgery

When you bring your dog to Mountain View Veterinary Hospital for emergency care, the vet will physically examine the abdomen. To assess your dog's general health, the vet may take blood work to determine the impact of the blockage.

Subsequently, the veterinary team will perform imaging and diagnostic tests to locate the foreign object. One of these tests is endoscopy, where a small tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted through your dog's throat and into the stomach while your dog is sedated.

If the objects cannot be retrieved during endoscopy, the vet may use ultrasound or X-rays to determine the nature and location of the obstruction. If your dog is dehydrated, they may receive IV fluids, which can also help stimulate the GI tract to push the blockage through the intestines and out of the body.

While some objects may pass naturally, others may necessitate surgery, especially if they pose an immediate danger to your dog's health. In such cases, the vet will recommend surgery.

The Procedure & What to Expect

After your dog has been prepared for the surgery, we'll make an incision near the blockage in their abdomen. This allows us to expose the gastrointestinal tract (exteriorized) to the outside of the body, and 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 may be required. The surgery usually takes 1 to 4 hours, and dogs with milder cases typically need to stay in the hospital for 3 to 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.

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

Monitor your dog closely and keep them calm while limiting their activity to prevent the tearing of the sutures. Your pup must wear a surgical cone to prevent licking or chewing on the healing incision.

Before your dog transitions back to its original diet, feed them small amounts of bland food and ensure they gets enough fluids to prevent dehydration.

During surgery, your pet will be anesthetized to prevent pain. After surgery, your pup may feel nauseated—don't panic if they vomit.

While your dog won't feel pain during the major surgery, they will likely experience some pain afterward. Your vet will prescribe pain medication. Follow the prescription's instructions carefully to manage your dog's pain at home. Additionally, your veterinarian might prescribe medications for nausea and vomiting if needed.

What is the success rate for dog intestinal blockage surgery?

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, review the diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis with you, and address any questions or concerns you may have.

How much does a dog's intestinal blockage surgery cost?

The cost of dog intestinal blockage surgery can vary depending on how extensive the damage is, the length of your dog's hospital stay, the types of medications required, and other factors (such as where you live). 

    How can Mountain View Veterinary Hospital help?

    Sudden health issues, such as accidents or injuries, can arise at any time. When dealing with intestinal blockage in dogs, we prioritize delivering immediate and life-saving care. We strive to ensure your pet's surgery is a positive and stress-free experience.

    At Mountain View Veterinary Hospital, we are dedicated to clarifying any procedure your pet may require, outlining the process, providing a cost estimate, and detailing any necessary follow-up or at-home care. Before undertaking any procedure, we offer a cost estimate and sit down with you to review available options.

    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.

    Does your dog have an upcoming intestinal blockage surgery? Your vet can answer any questions you may have. Contact our friendly team at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital to schedule an exam for your cat.