Common Signs with Intestinal Obstructions

Welcome back. This shouldn’t take too long, but let’s review some of the more common signs seen with intestinal obstructions. The most common sign would be vomiting and generally not a one time occurrence. This will usually be profuse vomiting (but can vary with every patient). Other signs to look for is anorexia (not wanting to eat), lethargy, and abdominal pain. As with any type of foreign body the gastrointestinal tract can become perforated and significantly worse signs can become evident. Whenever an intestinal foreign body is suspected immediate veterinary care (whether your primary veterinarian or an emergency clinic) is highly recommended. Generally these signs will occur very acutely (all of a sudden) once the object begins to obstruct the intestine. We don’t always know what our dogs get into, especially if they are left unattended or go outside in the back and unsupervised. It seems like many owner don’t know what there pet got into and swallowed.

During the initial evaluation, your veterinarian may recommend some diagnostic tests to help support the diagnosis of an intestinal foreign body and justify surgery. Most of the time the physical exam will show, dehydration (high heart rate, dry mucus membranes, etc), evidence of vomiting, pain on abdominal palpation, fever (if perforated intestines) and other various signs. Some dogs when presented early show few signs and are very stable, other dogs show very severe signs and may be very unstable and require aggressive supportive care including aggressive fluid management and other treatments.

The standard diagnostics after initial triage (physical exam, blood pressure, etc) typically include abdominal radiographs (x-rays), complete blood work, possible chest radiographs (if aspiration suspect or in the geriatric dog) and possible abdominal ultrasound if the radiographs are non-diagnostic. Some may also recommend contrast radiographs with barium contrast in an attempt to highlight the foreign body.

Once a presumptive diagnosis is made and the patient is deemed stable surgery generally is the next step. If the foreign body is only in the stomach, endoscopy may be performed succesfully to remove the object.

One thought on “Common Signs with Intestinal Obstructions

  1. Pingback: Common Signs with Intestinal Obstructions « A Veterinarian's Perspective

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