Intestinal blockage occurs when your dog has a partial or total blockage of the intestines. It is an excruciating condition, and it can be life-threatening if it is not treated right away.

A gastrointestinal blockage in dogs often requires emergency surgery. Some of the symptoms of a blockage include constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Your veterinarian often tries to capture the foreign object by using a less invasive procedure called an endoscopy first.

When a pup has surgery, they will need to be monitored in the hospital for up to three days to start rest and recovery. If you want to know more about intestinal blockage in dogs, check out this informative article.

What is an Intestinal Blockage in Dogs?

An intestinal blockage occurs when a partial or total obstruction prevents urine or stool from passing through the gastrointestinal tract. This condition is common in our canine companions, who tend to consume many questionable items throughout their lives.

The obstruction causes a lack of blood flow to the affected area, which impedes normal bodily functions and results in fluid accumulation in the intestines. An obstruction is a life-threatening situation, and it must be treated in time. Many dogs who have obstructions require surgery and supportive care.

What Are the Symptoms of Bowel Obstruction in Dogs?

Obstruction in dogs often presents with specific symptoms. Some obstructions are trickier to recognize, as the signs of partial obstructions are not always immediately evident. Sometimes, the foreign item remains in the stomach for days before it attempts to pass through the small intestines and becomes stuck. To be able to tell if your canine is uncomfortable, see some of the symptoms of an intestinal blockage:

Lack of Appetite

One of the first indications of concern is that your pup’s appetite decreases. If your dog cannot wait to chow down on their kibble and suddenly becomes disinterested in food, it may be a sign of intestinal blockage. Dogs lose their appetite when their intestines are obstructed because they cannot efficiently digest their food.


When the bowels are obstructed, the stomach stores fluids and other materials, which causes nausea. Nausea may lead to your dog vomiting up bile. Another scenario is that your pup rejects whatever they ingested, which can be good if they vomit up the foreign item. However, if they vomit continuously with no sign of their consumed item, your dog must go to the vet.

Diarrhea or Constipation

A partial blockage may cause diarrhea as the liquid stool overflows around the obstruction. If there is a total obstruction, it will make it so that the dog cannot pass stool. Some of the signs your dog is suffering from constipation include:

  • Circling excessively
  • Frequent squatting
  • Mucus with stool
  • Bloody stool

Your dog may also appear to be straining or trying to defecate with little to no success, or they may produce small, hard feces. Also, if your pup is vomiting but not passing stool, it is an indication that there may be an obstruction.


If your canine has been vomiting frequently or having diarrhea, they may become dehydrated. They will lose water and electrolytes, which is not safe for them. Damage to the intestinal tract and inflammation can trigger more fluid loss. Some of the indications your canine is dehydrated are:

  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Lack of energy
  • Dry-looking eyes
  • Heavy panting

You can check your dog’s gums by moving your finger between their lips and the location above their top teeth to see if they are dry. If your dog is dehydrated, they may also have a dry nose or thick, pasty saliva due to an absence of moisture in the mouth. Loss of skin elasticity is another sign of dehydration.

Abdominal Pain or Swollen Abdomen

Gastrointestinal obstructions are often present with abdominal pain or cramping. Abdominal pain is usually characterized by vocalization, wincing, or discomfort when your dog is touched in the belly area. If your dog has abdomen pain, they may also demonstrate changes in posture. Your pup may also have a swollen or distended abdomen.

Diagnosing and Treatment of Intestinal Blockage

If you see any warning signs mentioned above, you must get your canine to the vet immediately. The sooner a diagnosis of intestinal blockage is made, the sooner your pup can get the treatment they need, and the better the prognosis. Do not allow symptoms to continue without seeking veterinary care, as it can result in irreversible damage.

Your vet will assess your dog, and if they are suspicious of an intestinal blockage, they will touch the abdomen to check for discomfort or indication of possible foreign materials. They will also perform x-rays of the abdomen to investigate. They may also perform an endoscopy, a procedure involving a small tube with a camera inserted down the esophagus and into your pooch’s digestive tract.

The endoscopy is a good first option, as it can be used to safely remove a foreign item with minimal risk to your dog. If your vet cannot seize the item by performing the endoscopy, they will perform an ultrasound or take x-rays to find out more about the obstruction. Your pup will need to be anesthetized for this procedure.

The vet may also dispense fluids if your canine is dehydrated. Fluids will also restore the delicate balance of your pup’s electrolytes and assist the gastrointestinal tract with trying to push the blockage through the intestines and out of the body. If this does not work, emergency surgery is required to eliminate the blockage.

What You Should Know About Gastrointestinal Surgery in Dogs

Intestinal blockage surgery is very serious. After surgery, your pup will need to remain in the clinic for about one to three days to be observed for recovery. Your vet may have to mend any damage to the stomach or gastrointestinal wall caused by the blockage.

Most dogs tend to recover well after the surgery. Survival depends on where and how long the foreign item was stuck and your pup’s overall health before surgery. After surgery, the most critical thing to do is ensure your canine rests for about two weeks.

After the surgery, feed your dog only small portions of bland food, like plain white chicken and white rice. Give them enough water to ensure that they stay hydrated. Only take them for short walks during their period of rest. Your pup will also need to wear the “cone of shame” to inhibit them from gnawing on the healing incision.

What Types of Items Cause Obstruction?

If left to their own devices, dogs will get into mischief. Pet parents do their best, but sometimes if you turn your back for a minute, it is enough time for the pup to get a hold of something they should not have. Some examples are:

  • Socks
  • Sticks
  • Bones
  • Rocks
  • Coins
  • Toys
  • Paper clips
  • Hair ties

These are typical examples of items your pup may ingest that require emergency surgery to be removed. You should make it a point to supervise your dog during play, especially with smaller toys that are easier to swallow.


Intestinal blockage is a common condition, as dogs tend to ingest foreign items, especially when left unsupervised. If you see your pup displaying any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, take them to the vet immediately.

Do you have any further questions about intestinal blockages in your pup? Our staff at Tuder Vet Group would be glad to help! With over 75 years of experience, we have locations in Bayonne, Hoboken, and Jersey City, NJ.