Jul 09 2013

Intestinal Obstruction

Drawing Courtesy of Veterinary Technichian Nina Swartz

Drawing Courtesy of Veterinary Technichian Nina Swartz

What is worse than finding a toy in the middle floor?  Finding half a toy in the middle of the floor!  Ha! Get it?  Well, if not keep reading… 🙂

I thought I would have a little fun and talk about everyone’s favorite problem – animals eating things they shouldn’t!  From corn cobs (what is shown in the picture above) to toy dinosaurs, from socks and leather sandal straps to rocks, from carpet to strings, dogs (and cats) love to eat things never meant for the stomach.  That is where I come in and, though it is a major fix, it is nice to be able to remove a problem so quickly.

What you will see

First, you may see your normally well-behaved animal eating the item in question.  Almost every animal will vomit repeatedly, although we have seen at least one dog who just refused to eat.  Animals who vomit may refuse food completely or they may eat great between each vomiting episode.  Some animals will continue to pass normal stool or diarrhea, depending on where or how severe the obstruction is.  The blockage may also cause the animal a great deal of abdominal pain and discomfort as well.

What we will do

Upon presentation, we will perform a comprehensive exam and likely take an x-ray if we suspect a blockage.  It is important to note that not every animal that is vomiting has a blockage.  When we look at the x-rays, it may not show what is obstructing the intestines, but it may show evidence that the intestines have stopped their forward progress.  Large gas-filled loops of intestines in the belly are a dead giveaway that there is something not right in there.  If we are not sure about an obstruction, we will make the animal drink a solution that shows up on x-rays.  If the solution stops halfway down the intestines, we know we have a blockage.


Intestinal surgery can be complex for one reason.  We need to keep the bacteria that is EVERYWHERE in the intestinal fluid out of the abdomen.  Once we find the blockage, we isolate the intestine and make a small cut over the blockage.  Once this is out, the intestine is sutured up and leak tested.  Again, any leakage out of this incision results in LOTS of bacteria in the belly and a really bad infection.  We start feeding these guys the day after their surgery, and the intestines work well on a soft food diet for a couple of weeks.

Intestinal blockage can be scary, and it is never fun to have a dog under the knife just because he or she can’t break the sock eating habit, but it is good to know if they can eat it, we can treat it!

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