Definition of Gastrointestinal Obstruction
Gastrointestinal (GI) obstructions in the stomach or small intestine are fairly common in dogs. Sticks, rocks, needles, thermometers, bones, toothpicks, rawhides, toys, fabric and other foreign objects can cause complete or partial GI obstructions. Tumors, gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat), hernias, parasites and scarring of the GI lining from gastritis, ulcers or otherwise can also contribute to blockages. Regardless of whether they are partial or complete, GI obstructions cause food and fluids to accumulate upstream from the blockage site. This not only creates a physical barrier to normal digestive flow but also compromises the blood supply to sensitive GI tissues, which quickly become fragile and predisposed to perforating. Affected dogs almost always suffer abdominal pain. Some blockages pass without the need for surgery; if they don’t, the consequences can be fatal. Fortunately, diagnosing GI obstructions is fairly straightforward, using radiography, ultrasonography and other sophisticated techniques.