Intestinal Obstructions in Dogs: Chance’s Upset Belly—The Case Of The Well-Hidden Obstruction

Gastrointestinal obstruction is the partial or full blockage of the digestive tract. It can occur in the stomach or in the intestine.

It can be life-threatening. Symptoms might include

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • straining to poop
  • pain
  • lethargy

Thank you, Dawn Munger, for sharing Chance’s story.

Intestinal Obstructions in Dogs: Chance's Upset Belly—The Case Of The Well-Hidden Obstruction

Chance’s story

Chance was a four y/o American Bulldog mix.

I volunteer at an animal shelter. A few years ago, a dog came in bleeding and scarred. The man who brought him drove from a breed-banned area to our shelter, one of few who accept Bully breeds.

He said he thought the dog deserved a chance. So that’s how Chance got his name.

I took Chance out whenever I could and requested him for group walks. He’d lay in my lap in the yard while I rubbed his belly.  For six months, he was in the shelter and began to kennel-guard, so they moved him from the adoptable area to the back.

I knew his time was short, so I asked to foster him. We did a dog-to-dog with my youngest Corgi, the only one in the pack who had issues with other dogs.  Especially bigger male dogs. He snarled and growled at Chance. Chance backed off and ignored the grumpy Corgi. Then, with hesitation, they said I could foster.

In less than two weeks, I was a foster failure. Chance was an intelligent, goofy, playful dog in desperate need of training. In less than six months, he earned his CGC.  We took Obedience, Rally-O, Tricks, Scent Work, and every class we could find. He did great in all of them.

We’ve had some bumps along the way, but Chance was a fantastic dog who put up with four crazy barking Corgis and the household cat.  Because the youngest Corgi tended to get bossy, we taught Chance to carry a toy in his mouth while he’s playing alongside the Corgis. Unfortunately, he liked to tear the squeakers out and chew them up.  We’ve literally been through 100 or more of these toys without incident.

Chance gets sick

On Friday morning, Chance was sick. 

He made it outside just in time to vomit. He threw up some food, grass, bile, and a 3×3″ piece of a rubber toy. Other than that, everything seemed fine. Chance went for a walk, ate his breakfast, and his stool was normal.

By noon, though, Chance vomited his entire breakfast.

After that, he kept throwing up the rest of the afternoon, primarily foamy bile.

I gave him a little bit of chicken and rice, hoping that would settle his upset stomach. But he kept throwing up all night–food, bile, and foamy bile. So the next day, I took him to the vet.

At the veterinarian

An obstruction was a prime suspect.

However, x-rays showed no obstruction or foreign objects at all. Because Chance was dehydrated and not well, they kept him overnight and gave him IV fluids and Famotidine.

On Sunday afternoon, Chance was discharged from the hospital with Famotidine and Cerenia.

Chance seemed to had been feeling fine. He went for a walk, ate his meal, and didn’t throw up. He pooped a small amount. Things continued to look well until Monday afternoon.

The relapse

Chance didn’t feel like eating much and started vomiting again.

I gave him some Pepcid. That stopped the vomiting, but he still didn’t want to eat. By Tuesday afternoon, he started throwing up again; even the Pepcid wouldn’t stay down. Chance also seemed to have a hard time pooping.

This continued through the night when he vomited foamy bile about every hour.

Back at the hospital

We were back at the vet’s first thing in the morning.

They did more tests. More x-rays, ultrasound … no blockage found. Bloodwork was normal, pre-screen for Addison’s was negative. But something was clearly wrong …

They kept him in the hospital again. But despite all the meds and IV fluids, Chance was not improving.

You can imagine my worry and frustration.

Further testing

Another negative ultrasound. The vets were convinced that blockage was not the problem and wanted to run an ACTH Stimulation test for Addison’s disease. However, we insisted on a Barium study.

Barium has not entered Chances colon.

They took Chance to surgery to look for the problem. Lo and behold, they removed a 2.5″ piece of the rubber toy, part of which Chance threw up a week ago.

The hospital was excellent, so I kept second-guessing what I knew all along.  

Really? Do you want to test him for Addison’s Disease when he vomited a piece of rubber and won’t eat and can’t poop?

On Thursday, when we left the hospital, I was devastated. Chance looked so miserable like I’d never seen him before. I just wanted them to find SOMETHING. Why couldn’t they figure it out?

Exploratory surgery and final diagnosis

After reading responses from the Facebook group Dog Health Issues, I was confident that they needed to do exploratory surgery. I was SO relieved that the Barium Study finally showed what I knew all along.

I am grateful and relieved that they fixed my boy but still sad that he had to suffer a whole week.

Related articles:
My Dog’s Vomiting: Why Is My Dog Throwing up?
Diarrhea/Runny Stools in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Poop Runny?

Further reading:
Intestinal Obstruction in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDiarrheaObstructionsReal-life StoriesSymptomsVomiting

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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