Most dog owners know very well how destructive and unsatiable dogs can be. Unfortunately, this often leads them to eat almost anything that can fit their mouths. If you talk to your local veterinarians, they’ll undoubtedly share numerous stories about all kinds of curious things dogs have eaten.

That’s why you should always be vigilant and learn more about the symptoms that may occur during the dog intestinal blockage timeline. Let’s find out more:

Vacuum Cleaner Dogs — Victims of Intestinal Obstruction 

Dogs are curious creatures, which often leads them to chew or eat anything in sight. Most do that, but puppies are especially vulnerable. So, if you have a dog that behaves like a vacuum cleaner, you should be familiar with intestinal blockages and their symptoms.

What Is It?

Bowel or intestinal blockage is a partial or complete obstruction of the stomach or the intestines. The blockage can be anywhere in the digestive system: the esophagus, the stomach, or the small intestines. 

This can result in the inability to absorb water and food, leading to various problems and complications. Bowel blockages in dogs can easily dehydrate your pet and disrupt its electrolyte balance. Whatever is blocking the bowels can cause necrosis or perforation of the intestines. With no intervention, intestinal blockage can be fatal within a few days.

How Does It Happen?

In most cases, foreign bodies cause intestinal obstruction. Every curious and mischievous dog may chew and swallow objects like:

  • Bones
  • Toys
  • Sticks
  • Buttons
  • Rocks
  • Pennies
  • Paper
  • Balls
  • Cloth
  • Garbage

Strings, ribbons, yarn, or pantyhose are especially dangerous since they can twist in the bowels. Even treats like rawhide chews can be an issue for some dogs. For alternative snacks, you can look up Dr Marty freeze-dried dog food ratings.

In rare cases, especially for older dogs, tumors or abnormal tissue growths can also cause intestinal obstruction.

Beware of the Symptoms 

Dog intestinal blockage symptoms include:

  • Lethargy — Intestinal pain, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance can cause weakness and lethargy in your pooch.
  • Vomiting — Depending on the blockage location, vomiting can start right after eating or after a few hours (up to 8). If the blockage is in the small intestine, your dog may start throwing up soon after eating and experience swollen belly, pain, and even fever and shock.
  • No appetite — Besides vomiting, if a dog has an upset stomach due to intestinal blockage, it may lose its appetite and ignore food entirely.
  • Diarrhea — If the blockage is only partial, some liquid may pass through and cause diarrhea.
  • Difficulty pooping — If your pet strains to poop or cannot do it at all, these could be signs of a blockage in a dog. Alternatively, it could be constipation. Either way, it’s good to learn how to help your dog poop.
  • Sensitive abdomen — Obstruction can cause tummy sensitivity and bloating. It can also be very painful, and a sign of that is your dog getting into the prayer position often.
  • Whining — The pain and discomfort intestinal blockage causes can make your dog whine and cry.
  • Lip-smacking — If you see your dog licking its lips often or swallowing a lot, a health issue like bowel obstruction may be the cause.
  • Drooling — Excessive drooling can be the reason why your dog licks its lips often while experiencing abdominal issues.

Behavior changes and nausea could also be signs of bowel obstruction in dogs. Contact your vet if your dog experiences any of these symptoms consistently, especially a few of them simultaneously.

When Does the Body Start to React? — A Timeline 

Generally, if your dog swallows something that it shouldn’t and causes a blockage, the symptoms will occur within 24 hours. Here’s the dog intestinal blockage timeline:

Esophagus — Immediately 

If the object is in the esophagus, it still hasn’t reached the stomach and intestines. Your pet might throw it up, and your vet may try to induce vomiting.

When the blockage is in the esophagus, the symptoms appear right after eating and may include lips licking, swallowing excessively, and vomiting (most likely due to undigested food in big pieces). After that, dehydration may become an issue.

sick sad brown dog

Stomach — Few Hours

When intestinal obstruction happens in your pet’s stomach, food often cannot pass through the rest of the intestines. But how to tell if your dog has a blockage? It typically causes vomiting a few hours after eating. Symptoms may also include abdominal pain and bloating.

The foreign objects that get stuck in a dog’s tummy are often bigger, smoother, and rounder items. These can be small balls, marbles, or bones. There’s still a chance of the object being removed non-surgically through induced vomiting or endoscopy.

Small Intestine — Soon After Eating

Objects that typically get stuck in the intestines are fabrics, strings, and plastics. If the item passes through the stomach, it may get stuck or entwined in the twists and turns of the intestines. 

This can cause various issues, including gas accumulation and bloating, damage to the tissues, and cut-off blood supply. In this case, dog small intestine blockage can lead to tissue necrosis, and your pet may display:

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Bloated abdomen
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

Vomiting can occur soon after eating in this case. This is a life-threatening condition.

End of Small Intestine — 7–8 Hours

If the obstruction is towards the digestive tract’s end in the small intestine, diarrhea is usually the most common sign. Throwing up can still happen, but much later, about 7–8 hours after a meal.

If any of these symptoms persist for more than a day, your pet can’t pass the object on its own, and a visit to the vet might be urgent.

Signs of Bowel Obstruction in Dogs May Not Show Up Immediately 

Keep in mind that the symptoms’ timeline depends on where the object is and the blockage type. If it’s a partial one, signs may show up after days. 

If you know that your pet has eaten something it shouldn’t, don’t stop monitoring it after the first 24 hours. It may need more time to pass the object or experience symptoms.

Diagnosis & Treatment — What to Expect When Going to the Vet

If you notice dog intestinal blockage symptoms, get in contact with your veterinarian as soon as possible. They’ll probably start the examination by locating the pain or the object through abdominal palpation.

Even if they find the issue, they may need blood tests, x-ray, or ultrasound for confirmation. Typically, x-rays are good for finding evidence of bowel obstruction. Some objects don’t show up on the x-ray, so the vet may give your dog barium to make them visible. Using endoscopy can also help locate the object and even remove it if it’s still in the stomach.

The doctor may decide to induce vomiting if the object isn’t dangerous and was consumed within the last two hours. When bowel blockages in dogs happen, vets often use hydrogen peroxide to make the pet throw up. Don’t do that on your own without consulting a professional.

Your dog may also receive medications for the pain and dehydration. In some cases, a type of fluid therapy or an enema may be enough for passing the object. But if the thing has been in the digestive system for a long time or has reached the small intestine, your dog will need urgent surgery.

Surgery Time 101: Get to Know the Process 

When surgery is unavoidable, depending on its complexity, length, where you live, and who does it, the bowel obstruction surgery cost can range anywhere between $800 and $7,000. If you have dog insurance, the costs may be significantly less.

The earlier your pet gets surgery, the better. How dangerous it will be for the dog and how fast it will recover depends on various factors. These include the object’s size, shape, and location and the dog’s overall health at the time of the procedure.

Post-Surgery Recovery

After this surgery, your pet may need to stay in the hospital for a few days. The first 72 hours after surgery are most critical, but even after that, there are potential dog intestinal blockage surgery complications. 

Issues that may occur include sepsis, hypoalbuminemia, and wound reopening. The highest risk is the intestines leaking after the operation (this rarely happens with the stomach). The chances of this happening are 5–15%. 

After the operation, the bowels might be irritated, which can cause nausea. The result may be dog coughing, vomiting, and losing appetite for a few days. That’s why hydration is crucial after surgery. For about a week, your dog may not be able to go to the toilet.

When your pooch comes back from the vet, keep activities at a minimum for 10–14 days. This will help prevent dog intestinal blockage surgery complications. Typically, your dog will get a cone to prevent licking the wound. While recovering, give your dog small portions of bland food and many liquids. Ask your vet for detailed instructions depending on the operation.

How to Turn Off the Vacuum? — Tips & Tricks for Avoiding Intestinal Blockage

You can’t monitor everything your dog does 24/7. Still, you can implement some house rules and habits to prevent a vacuum dog from ingesting dangerous objects:

  • Put everything your dog may want to eat out of reach. Be vigilant about missing items in your home.
  • Dogs love garbage. Find a way to make all trash cans inaccessible to your pet. 
  • Research sturdy toys and accessories like indestructible dog crate pads and beds.
  • To prevent dog blockage symptoms and occurrence, don’t buy small toys that your dog can swallow easily or toys with small parts.
  • Be especially careful with plastic bags. Keep them away, and don’t put dog food in them.
  • Be careful where you put your socks, other small pieces of clothing, and towels.
  • Don’t overfeed your pooch. This can also cause bloating and intestinal obstruction.
  • Train your dog well, so it’s not too late when you give it the command to drop whatever it’s chewing.
  • Avoid feeding bones, especially cooked bones, as they splinter more easily.
  • Be particularly vigilant when you leave your home with the dog. Your curious friend may vacuum something off the street the moment you look away.
  • Some dog treats like rawhide may also give the dog small intestine blockage.

Train your dog well and keep in mind that every time something in your house goes missing, the culprit might be right by your side. Hopefully, no incidents will occur.


Bowel obstruction can happen to any dog and endanger its life if you don’t notice the signs and don’t go to the vet on time. You also have to remember that the symptoms depend on the dog intestinal blockage timeline. 

Dogs often pass smaller objects or simply get minor digestive upset. Yet, intestinal obstruction can be hazardous and fatal. That’s why recognizing the symptoms and prevention are crucial.

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