What Can Happen if a Dog Gets a Perforated Bowel?

Immediate medical attention is essential.
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A perforated bowel occurs primarily when a dog ingests a foreign object that obstructs and/or tears through the bowel. Sharp objects, such as needles, bone shards, aluminum cans and sticks have the potential to block the intestine and perforate it, sometimes in multiple locations. Immediate veterinary care is vital to ensuring the dog’s recovery.

Early Symptoms

A dog who eats something he shouldn’t and develops a bowel obstruction may exhibit initial signs including vomiting, diarrhea or an inability to have a bowel movement. He will likely be in pain, refuse food, appear listless, and may present with a variable fever. If the foreign object perforates the bowel, the dog may go into shock.

Initial Assessment

A vet will typically take X-rays or conduct an ultrasound to examine the bowel and make a determination about where the perforation has taken place. He will then decide a course of action based on the findings. Fast action is generally required to ensure the perforation doesn’t continue to tear and further complicate the injury.

Surgical Intervention

Surgical intervention is often necessary to remove the obstruction and repair the perforation. If the contents of the bowel have entered the dog’s body cavity, or the abdominal contents become inflamed, it could lead to infection or septic peritonitis, which has the potential to spread to the blood stream. This condition is typically treated through antibiotics and through insertion of drainage tubes.

Tissue Damage

Perforation can damage bowel tissue and make it difficult to repair. A dog can develop a condition called short bowel syndrome, which is the result of removing a significant section of bowel due to damage. This can lead to malabsorption, or difficulty assimilating nutrients including food and water.

Gastrointestinal Resection and Anastomosis

If the perforated bowel is repaired through gastrointestinal resection and anastomosis, whereby the perforated, damaged section of the bowel is removed and the remaining sections reattached, it can lead to complications. Leakage at the repair site can lead to infection, and scaring at the repair site can lead to restricted interior flow.

Compromised Blood Flow

Bowel obstruction and perforation that restricts blood flow to vital organs can compromise other internal systems. One of the primary objectives of veterinary medical professionals is to restore blood flow, without which serious damage or death can result.