Gastrointestinal Blockage in Dogs: Signs, Symptoms and Prevention

If the item that the dog consumes is unable to pass through the dog’s digestive tract, it can cause an obstruction. This can have severe consequences, including emergency surgery and death.

Puppies like to eat everything.  They explore and discover by smelling and “tasting” almost everything they come across.  This is not limited to edible items and can be dangerous.  Unfortunately, there are many adult dogs that continue this trait, even if it’s only on occasion.  If the item that the dog consumes is unable to pass through the dog’s digestive tract, it can cause an obstruction.  This can have severe consequences, including emergency surgery and death.  It’s important to monitor your dog while he plays and to remove all smaller items that can be easily swallowed. It’s always good to be aware of any signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal blockage in dogs, as well as how to prevent it from happening to your pet.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

What items Cause Gastrointestinal Blockage?

There are many items that can get stuck in the stomach, intestines and colon. If the object is not able to be dissolved or broken down by the stomach acids, or is too large to get through the intestinal tract, it becomes lodged.  At this point the object cannot move up to be vomited out or down to be passed through and released through the colon.  Although any object your dog swallows can be a danger, some of the most common items found lodged in the intestinal tracts of many dogs are:

– hair ties

– socks

– underwear

– facecloths/towels

– small stuffed toys

– corn cobs

– string, ribbon or rope

– rocks

– sticks

– broken or small chew toys

– rawhide

– bones

What Should you Do If You See Your Dog Swallow Something He Shouldn’t?

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If you see your dog swallow something that is not dog food, you should get him to a vet immediately. Your vet may be able to help the dog to bring up the foreign object before it travels down to a location that will require surgical removal. 

NOTE:  Never induce vomiting without the advice and guidance of a veterinarian.  If you don’t perform the process properly, it could result in your dog asphyxiating should the item become lodged in the throat on the way out.

Signs and Symptoms of Gastrointestinal blockage:

Sometimes our little friends find things that we don’t see and scoop them up without our even knowing it. When this happens, if we are lucky, whatever they have swallowed will pass naturally. 

One of my family members has two Burnese Mountain dogs. One day, after she had let them out in the yard to do their business, she went out to clean up the mess and found an entire mini skirt mixed in with the “pile”.  It seemed funny at the time, but it could have been a very different, very NOT funny outcome if the skirt had become entangled in the intestines.

So how do we know if something is stuck?  There are a number of physical symptoms that could indicate blockage.

  • Vomiting food, bile or fluids
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stomach appears enlarged or bloated
  • Slow, listless, lethargic behavior
  • Diarrhea or constipation (depending on where the blockage is)
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach pain when touched
  • Whimpering or showing other signs of physical discomfort

If you see any of these signs or other unusual behaviour you should have your dog examined by a veterinarian to rule out potentially deadly blockage.

Why do dogs eat non-food items?

Many dogs, especially puppies, will eat anything within range. This is simply curiousity and exploration.  For older dogs, it is often because they are chewing on something they shouldn’t.  Bones, sticks, rawhide or chew toys that are either too small or not durable enough, among other things.  Generally, anything that can fit in your dog’s throat, has strings or has a tendency to splinter, should not be available to your dog.  It’s just too dangerous.

Some dogs actually crave or seek out certain inedible things to chew on.  This is a condition called Pica. While Pica can be a habitual tendency, it can sometimes be brought on by emotional issues, a change in diet or new stresses, including new pet, new baby or owners being stressed.  . 

Your dog may have never had this issue before, but can evolve at any time.

How Can you prevent your dog from eating non-food items?

One of the best ways to prevent your dog from ingesting dangerous items is to remove them from the dog’s reach.  This may not be as easy as it sounds, depending in your doggo’s chewing preferences.

Supervise your dog when he is playing with his toys to be sure he isn’t being too aggressive.  This will prevent breaking the toy and swallowing the broken pieces.

Hair ties, socks, string, bones, dangerous chew toys and rawhide can be removed easily. If you have young children, you should make sure that their toys are out of reach.  A Barbie shoe or toy blocks can cause serious harm to your dog.

Find ways to keep your dog entertained.  Providing him with toys that keep him busy will keep your dog distracted.  He will not be as interested in chewing on the dangerous items.

Provide durable toys to limit breakage that leads to swallowing pieces. Supervise your dog when he is playing with his toys to be sure he isn’t being too aggressive.  This will prevent breaking the toy and swallowing the broken pieces.

Make toy inspection part of your daily routine.  Ensure that all toys are in good shape and remove any that are damaged or broken.

But what if your dog chews on wires?                          

Wires are all over your house.  They can’t be taken away but they can be hidden and kept out of reach. Some ways to achieve this are:

  • Make sure all wires are tucked in behind furniture where possible.
  • If your wires are exposed, you should try purchasing a durable protective cover to wrap the wires in.  This will make them less inviting as well as more difficult to chew through.
  • Put away your electronic chargers after use.  Where possible, charge these devices on an out-of-reach table or counter.
  • Purchase a deterrent spray. Remember that this is a deterrent, not a fool proof plan.  See how it works for your pet before leaving the dogs unsupervised. CAUTION: BE SURE THAT THE SPRAY YOU CHOOSE IS SAFE FOR ALL OF THE PETS ON YOUR HOME, NOT JUST YOUR DOG!


When you have a dog in the house, you never know what might be chewed or swallowed.  The best way to avoid dangerous ingestion of non food items is prevention. 

Be aware of any unusual behavior.  Monitor for the signs listed above if you think your dog may have swallowed something.  Most importantly, if you suspect that your dog may have consumed anything other than dog-safe food, get him to a vet as soon as possible.

Eusoh Cool

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