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Intestinal Blockage Surgery in Dogs

Even the most well-behaved dogs may occasionally do something they shouldn't. Unfortunately, when this slip-up results in an object being eaten it can cause scary circumstances. Our Kingman vets discuss what happens when your dog eats something they shouldn't and what to expect with intestinal blockage surgery and recovery.

One universally known truth about dogs is that they love to chew on and eat everything they possibly can. Dogs love to experience different smells, tastes and textures and sometimes this means that they find all sorts of objects appealing including objects that aren't edible.

Dogs are notorious for eating a variety of indigestible objects such as rubber balls, paper and tissues, towels, stones, clothing, packaging, and more. While it is most commonly young puppies exploring their new world that eat indigestible objects, older dogs may still occasionally eat things that they shouldn't as well.

It is possible for these items to because lodged in the various sections of the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract, which in turn will create an obstruction. All obstructions are considered an emergency and will always require immediate veterinary attention. In most cases, the obstruction will require surgery to remove as well as ongoing care.

The Reasons For Abdominal and Intestinal Surgery

Unfortunately, bowel obstruction in dogs is something that is commonly seen by our vets. Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn't which results in these blockages. These blockages are when your dog's stomach or intestines have been partially or completely blocked. Blockages are extremely dangerous as they can cause various complications that can range from preventing food and water from passing through his GI tract to constricting the flow of their blood. 

When our vets see cases of intestinal blockages, they are almost always caused by a foreign object lodged in the intestinal tract. Some of the most dangerous objects swallowed by dogs are string, yarn and rope as they can cause issues such as intestinal twisting. If your dog is older and has an intestinal blockage then we may consider the blockage to be caused by a mass or tumor.

If you have a larger breed of dog then another condition that may be considered is abdominal bloat. If you have a larger breed of dog that is susceptible to blat then your vet may recommend having your puppy undergo gastropexy when they go in for neutering. (Gastropexy or stomach tacking is a procedure that is used to attach your dog’s stomach to his abdominal wall in order to prevent twisting.)

The Symptoms of Abdominal and Intestinal Blockages 

It is important that you pay attention to your dog's behavior in order to avoid missing the signs and symptoms of obstruction. If your dog experiences an obstruction and the condition is not addressed quickly then this condition is usually fatal within 3-7 days. 

If you own a large to very large breed of dog and they experience an intestinal obstruction the signs should be noticeable within hours of the stomach twisting. It is important to bring your dog in for immediate emergency care if you notice any signs or symptoms as the mortality rate is 15%.

Here are the signs and symptoms of bowel obstruction and abdominal twisting:

  • Dry heaving  
  • Diarrhea
  • Visible bloating
  • Decreased appetite and dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Hunching, whining, or other signs of abdominal pain (praying position is the classic sign of pain in dogs)
  • Lethargy

If you happen to notice the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible then your dog should recover just fine.

What to Expect With Abdominal and Intestinal Surgery

Your vet will go through the process of thoroughly preparing your dog for surgery. Afterwhich, they will make an abdominal incision in order to view the problem area.  The gastrointestinal tract will be exposed to allow your veterinary team to locate the mass or foreign body obstructing his bowels. at this time your vet will create another incision in order to remove the mass or object. This stage is called enterotomy or gastrotomy. 


There may be a chance that a section of your dog's intestines may need to be removed if it has been irreparably damaged due to the obstruction or if the mass was very large. Unfortunately, in some rare cases, the dead tissue will include the stomach or bowels and cannot be saved resulting in euthanasia being the most humane option. After bowel obstruction surgery your dog will need to stay a minimum of 1 to 3 days with our veterinary team for the initial recovery. 

The first 72 hours after the surgery are the most important for the recovery process. While the ongoing risk of complications begins to diminish after the initial 72 hours there are still some potential complications to keep in mind:

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

If you notice anything unusual with your dog's behavior once they are home recovering please call your vet immediately.

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.

Do you have questions about your dog's intestinal blockage surgery? Contact our Kingman vets to discuss any questions or concerns that you have.

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Cerbat Cliffs Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Kingman companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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