Gastrointestinal Obstruction in Dogs
Gastrointestinal obstruction is defined as the partial or complete blockage of the flow of nutrients (solid or liquid) ingested into the body, and/or secretions from the stomach into and through the intestines. The term gastro refers to the stomach, while intestinal refers to a condition of the intestines. Accordingly, this term refers to blockage that may occur in the stomach or intestines.
Gastrointestinal obstruction is a fairly common condition. Dogs are generally at a high risk because they tend to be less discriminating about what they ingest. Similarly, younger dogs may be more susceptible for the same reason.
The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
Blockage may occur in the stomach or intestines. Gastric outflow obstruction results in the accumulation of ingested solids and fluids in the stomach. This can lead to vomiting, a subsequent loss of fluids, including gastric secretions rich in hydrochloric acid, as well as possible dehydration, sluggishness, and weight loss, depending on the severity of the condition.
Small intestinal obstruction results in the accumulation of ingested solids and fluids in the intestines by the area of obstruction. Consequent vomiting can result in significant dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, depending on the exact location of the blockage in the intestines. Damage to the protective linings of the intestine and bowel ischemia (in which blood supply to the bowels is restricted) can also potentially result in the presence of toxins in the blood.
The primary symptoms that may appear include vomiting, especially after eating, anorexia, weakness, diarrhea, and weight loss.
There are various things that can lead to gastrointestinal obstruction. Gastric outflow obstruction, in which the path of stomach contents is obstructed, can be caused by foreign bodies that have been ingested, a tumor, gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract), or pyloric stenosis, which is a condition that causes severe vomiting. Small intestinal obstruction, where the path of the small intestines is in some way obstructed, can be caused by the ingestion of foreign bodies, tumors, hernias, intussusception (a condition in which one portion of the small intestine slides into the next, causing blockage), or mesenteric torsion, which is a particular twisting of the intestines around its mesenteric axis -- the connective membrane between the intestines and the abdominal wall.
A number of risk factors may increase the odds of gastrointestinal obstruction, including an exposure to and tendency to ingest foreign bodies, as well as intussusception associated with intestinal parasites.
One diagnostic procedure that may be useful for confirming gastric and nearby intestinal obstruction is an endoscopy, in which a small tube with a tiny camera attached to it is led through the mouth and into the stomach, allowing for an examination. This method can also retrieve biopsies of masses, and even retrieve foreign bodies that may be the source of obstruction.
Other tests that may prove useful include urine analysis (which may rule out other causes of similar symptoms, such as liver disease), and abdominal ultrasounds, which may reveal a foreign body in the stomach or intestine.