Bowel blockage in dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Bowel blockage in your dog can happen for a number of reasons, usually because she chewed up a toy or foreign object or swallowed something too big to make it through on its own. Sudden symptoms could mean an emergency situation.
If your dog has recurring bouts of constipation, this could be a sign of a sensitive digestive tract. Increasing the amount of fibre in your dog's diet may help clear blockages and will generally keep your dog healthier, but helping to prevent these blockages and recognising the signs early could potentially save her life.

The Facts

Don't delay getting veterinary treatment if you know for certain your dog ate a foreign object. Sharp objects can pierce the wall of the intestine, causing bacteria to leak into the body cavity and quickly making your dog extremely ill. If she ate a string, it could bunch up in the intestine and perforate or twist it as well. Bowel blockages in dogs are a serious matter when they are caused by foreign objects.


Symptoms of a bowel blockage in your dog can include vomiting, diarrhoea or complete lack of bowel movements. If your dog eats and then promptly vomits the food, it is most likely stomach irritation, but if this happens more than once it could be a sign of bowel blockage.
Mucus in the vomit or diarrhoea or abnormal colours such as green or black indicate a more serious matter. You should call your vet immediately to relay the symptoms and ask if you should bring your pet into the office.

Time Frame

Most likely, the problem has been progressing for some time before your dog starts showing discomfort. If this is not the case but you notice some of the common symptoms, you can usually safely wait a day to see if the problem resolves itself. However, keep an eye on your pet in case symptoms worsen. Dehydration due to bowel blockage can happen very quickly and can be deadly. If your dog's eyes appear sunken and dull, her nose is extremely dry, and her gums do not quickly return to a healthy pink colour when you press them with the ball of your thumb, dehydration has already set in. Immediate intravenous fluids may be necessary.


Bowel blockages can be detrimental to your dog's short- and long-term digestive health. Often, dangerous surgery must be performed to remove the object, untwist the gastrointestinal tract, and possibly remove any dead or dying parts of the affected intestine. This can lead to extensive recovery time, a lifelong change in diet and expensive veterinary care that could easily be prevented by protecting your dog's environment and recognising the signs and symptoms of possible blockages.


To help prevent canine bowel blockages, please don't give your dog toys that it can shatter or shred. The market provides safe toys for regular play. Also ensure you never leave string, ribbon or other foreign objects lying where your dog may be tempted to chew on or eat them.

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About the Author

Jamie Simpson is a researcher and journalist based in Indianapolis with more than 10 years of professional writing experience. She earned her B.S. in animal science from Purdue University and her Master of Public Affairs in public management from Indiana University. Simpson also works as a massage therapist and equine sports massage therapist.