Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Gastrointestinal obstruction is the partial or complete blockage of the flow of nutrients and/or secretions from stomach into or through the intestines. Any obstruction in stomach or intestines is referred to as gastrointestinal obstruction.

“Gastro” refers to the stomach, “intestinal” refers to the small intestines (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum), and “blockage” refers to anything that obstructs the normal flow through these organs. This could be a foreign body, such as a toy, rock, rawhide or other type of bone, socks, rubber bands/ strings, or any other strange object a pet may ingest. It could also be the result of a mass or inflammation inside the stomach or intestines.

It is a common conditions in dogs due to their indiscriminate eating habits. Dogs are not picky eaters. In fact, they can eat almost anything. Due to this behavior, they suffer more commonly with GI obstruction.

Regardless of whether they are partial or complete, GI obstructions cause food and fluids to accumulate upstream from the blockage site. This not only creates a physical barrier to normal digestive flow but also compromises the blood supply to sensitive GI tissues, which quickly become fragile and predisposed to perforating. 

The observable symptoms of GI obstruction may vary depending upon where the obstruction is located and whether it is partial or complete. However, most dogs with GI obstructions develop one or more of the following clinical signs:

Vomiting, which is always accompanied by forceful abdominal contractions, is the hallmark of gastrointestinal obstruction. 






Abdominal discomfort and pain (biting at the belly; going into a praying position)


Dark, tarry stools (due to the presence of digested blood; melena)

Reduced or infrequent passage of feces (with a partial blockage, feces may continue to pass normally

Straining to defecate


Abdominal bloating; gas accumulation

Loss of appetite

Weight loss

Excessive drooling

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