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A bowel obstruction, also known as a gastrointestinal blockage, is a common problem in dogs, due to their curious nature and desire to eat or chew almost anything. Most dog owners have probably heard of this issue, whether or not their own dog has experienced it. All dogs are at risk of this issue, but it can be easily prevented and treated with prompt care and medical attention.

What is a Bowel Obstruction in Dogs?

A bowel obstruction is a complete or partial blockage that prevents solids or liquids from passing through the gastrointestinal tract. This blockage can also decrease blood flow to the bowels, causing deterioration and absorption of toxic contents. Foreign objects can also cause the intestines to bunch into each other like a telescope. Seek veterinary attention as soon as you suspect your dog has ingested something that could cause a blockage.

Symptoms of a Bowel Obstruction

What Causes Bowl Obstruction in Dogs?

Most frequently, bowel obstructions are caused by ingesting foreign objects, such as rocks and bones, which can also cause perforation of the stomach and intestines. Other causes include tumors, gastrointestinal inflammation, twisting of the intestines around the membrane that separates them from the abdominal wall, and intestinal parasites. Dogs who have a tendency to ingest foreign objects are at a high risk of a bowel obstruction, especially young puppies.

puppy with stick

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian will likely perform an endoscopy, which involves inserting a thin tube with a tiny camera attached down your dog’s throat and into the stomach to examine it. If possible, the vet can also retrieve the foreign object causing the obstruction during the endoscopy. Otherwise, the vet will use an ultrasound or X-ray to determine what and where the obstruction is and will give the dog fluids to correct dehydration. If the object does not pass, the dog may need surgery under anesthesia so the vet can open the abdomen and remove the cause of the blockage.

After treatment, monitor your dog for any recurring symptoms. Keep his activity level low–no running or long walks for a few days. Feed him a bland diet of dry food and no treats for a few days before slowly introducing his previous diet. Also make sure to replenish lost fluids to avoid dehydration.


There are a few causes of bowel obstruction, but you can prevent the most common cause of it by discouraging and preventing your dog from trying to eat anything such as bones, sticks and twigs, rocks, and the like. Keep foods that are toxic to dogs and other things that might be tempting to your dog out of reach. Teaching the “Leave it!” command can prevent your dog from attempting to explore something harmful.

Note: The information above is designed to help inform you about bowel obstruction in dogs and is not meant to take the place of a veterinary diagnosis. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or possible symptoms, be sure to contact and consult with your veterinarian right away.
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