How to handle a GI Obstruction

We all love our four legged furry family members – but it has to be admitted that they can be a bit dense sometimes. For instance, some dogs will eat ANYTHING! Rocks, sticks, plastic toys, ridiculously large bones, corn cobs, and socks are major worries for us in the Veterinary field. If you’re lucky, your dog is a champ and manages to pass these objects without a problem – and bravo! For the rest of us though, it usually involves a visit to the veterinarian.

What To Do if You See Your Dog Eat Something Strange:

If your dog managed to eat it, and it isn’t sharp or pointy, chances are we can get him/her to throw it back up. This can be done at home or in the clinic – just give your local veterinarian a call for instructions! Getting them to vomit up the foreign material is the best outcome – the stomach is the widest part of the GI tract. Getting foreign material to pass and/or surgery gets more difficult once the object has left the stomach.

Signs to watch out for:

We can’t watch our dogs 24/7 – so chances are you won’t see them getting into the trash can or laundry bin. Here are some common signs that dogs (and cats) can exhibit if they have an obstruction forming in their GI Tract:

  • Vomiting – especially if they can’t keep down water.
  • Inappetence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy/ Depression
  • Diarrhea or constipation – depending on where the object is getting stuck.

*Warning: These symptoms are common in many gastro – intestinal diseases.

Clinical Case:

A very nice dog came in who hadn’t eaten anything in a few days, was vomiting on and off for that entire time, and the owner came in because the vomit went from being clear to brown.

Our normal workup for these types of cases:

  1. Physical exam: she was dehydrated, depressed, and very painful in her abdomen.
  2. X Rays: We could see foreign material consistent with a cloth obstructing her intestines. It was very clear that no material was making it past the cloth obstruction.
    1. This was a lucky occurrence. Not all objects will show up on our X ray images. In those cases – we can put the dog/ cat on fluids and take another image a few hours later (depending on how the patient is doing) to see if things are moving through the abdomen.
  3. Exploratory Surgery:
    1. These are always called explores because we cannot predict what we are going to find. Sometimes, even if it looks like there is a blockage on X Ray – we can get in there and everything looks normal. On the flip side, surgeries that should have been straightforward can turn into much more complicated procedures depending on what we see in the abdomen.
    2. This dog did end up having an obstruction which we were able to remove. Our patient recovered beautifully and is probably chasing a tennis ball while you read this article.

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