It is so important to be alert and aware of your dogs’ behaviors while on walks with them or even lounging in the backyard; our little friends can ingest very dangerous objects in a split second, leading to harmful obstructions which can result in death.
Unfortunately, one of our dog-friends died from an obstruction last year; a palm seed she ate that ended up complicating other conditions. We were devastated, so we asked our wonderful family veterinarian, Dr. Maria Oliveira, to help us educate our clients about obstructions: the signs, what to do, and the consequences. We know her expert answers will help you all in the case of that emergency!
What is an obstruction in a dog or cat? An obstruction can be caused by a foreign object (objects that cannot be digested), by a tumor or growth narrowing the lumen or width of the intestine, entrance (cardiac region) or exit (piloric region) of the stomach or by intussusceptions (part of the intestine inside another part of the intestine). Any object that is not digestible can cause an obstruction, but cats also tend to eat strings that plicate the intestine and cause obstructions and necrosis of the intestinal wall.
What are the symptoms of an obstruction? Depending if the obstruction is partial or complete the animals will show different symptoms.
1. When the obstruction is complete the animals will throw up food and water and sometimes the vomit will have a smell resembling stool depending of the area where the obstruction is present.
2. When the obstruction is partial they might be able to keep the water down and only throw up the food. People think that an obstructed animal cannot defecate, but this is a misconception. Stool that has formed and is present behind the area of obstruction will follow its course, and when the obstruction is partial you could also have stool formation and removal.
3. Animals that are obstructed will also present varying degrees of dehydration and intestinal pain at palpation of the abdomen. Pets will generally be lethargic and quiet.
How soon should they take their pets to the vet?
Any time in which an obstruction is suspected the pet should be taken immediately to the veterinarian. Obstructions will cause severe dehydration and the obstructed portion of the intestine can get necrotic. When necrosis occurs, intestinal content will leak to the abdominal cavity causing peritonitis and death.
What can you do for your pet if they have an obstruction?
The only thing you can do is to keep them hydrated. Hydration does not only consist of water, they also need electrolytes, but if your pet is vomiting fluids also, then hydration needs to be through a vein and not by mouth. Your vet will give the appropriate medications to control pain.