The Ultimate Party Pooper: Gastrointestinal Obstructions in Pets

Just like small children, our pets tend to explore the world with their mouths. This is all fine and well, but some things just aren’t meant to enter the digestive system. Some items or substances can be irritating or even toxic, and still others can get stuck if swallowed. Gastrointestinal obstructions in pets are no fun as a general rule, but luckily our expert staff at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services are well equipped to help if your furry family friend commits the ultimate party foul.

The Real Risk of Gastrointestinal Obstructions in Pets

The gastrointestinal tract starts with the mouth and forges ahead in the form of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine/colon. Items can and do get stuck at any point along their journey through it.

When foreign objects cause gastrointestinal obstructions in pets, the results can be serious. Sometimes the symptoms depend on whether the obstruction is acute (sudden) or chronic (long standing), but usually an obstruction means a sick pet. Animals suffering from a GI obstruction may experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetance
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss

Medical attention is always indicated. Some pets are sneaky and we don’t know what’s in there until we retrieve the offending item, while others are blatant about their penchant for the inedible. Virtually anything can cause an obstruction, but some of the more common offending items include clothing (in particular, socks and underwear), bones, corn cobs, stuffed toys, plastic or silicone items like bottle nipples, and string-like objects such as ribbon or fishing line.

Diagnosing the Problem

we suspect that a pet might have a foreign body obstruction, it is important that we get right to work. Many different disease processes can appear similarly to an obstruction, so diagnostic testing is typically warranted. Tests that we may need in order to confirm a diagnosis can include:

  • Blood tests
  • Radiographs (x-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Endoscopy
  • Exploratory surgery

Many times gastrointestinal obstructions in pets result in serious illness, and affected patients need supportive care before we can even think about retrieving the offending object.

Most patients with a foreign body obstruction need to spend some time in our intensive care unit. Intravenous fluid therapy to correct dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, pain medication, and antibiotics are often indicated.

AIMSS to the Rescue

If your precious pet has swallowed something he or she shouldn’t have, what’s to be done? Sometimes, if the item isn’t toxic and is likely to pass without a problem, we will just monitor closely. If there is truly an obstruction, though, we often need to retrieve the object. Left unaddressed, serious consequences, including sepsis, gastrointestinal perforation, and even death, can result.

Where the object lies in the GI tract and how long it has been there changes our options dramatically. An obstruction in the upper GI tract may be removed with endoscopy. Many times, however, surgery is required.

An abdominal incision grants us access to most of your pet’s gastrointestinal system. Surgical incisions can then be made to retrieve the object. If the object has caused permanent damage to a section of bowel, the affected portions may be removed. This is called resection and anastomosis.

Even after the foreign object is retrieved, your pet will need close and careful care. Recovery can be difficult and is not without complications. Luckily, we are here to help.

When at all possible, it is best to keep your pet from ingesting foreign objects. Keep garbage cans secure and put tempting items in places safe from your pet’s curiosity. If you think or know your four-legged friend has ingested something naughty, though, don’t hesitate to call us. We are always open and here for you any time, day or night.