Intussusception In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Intussusception in dogs happens when a segment of the large or small intestine telescopes into an adjacent portion of the digestive tract. It is also referred to as “telescoping intestine.” While intussusception can happen anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, it usually occurs in the middle of the small intestine or where the small intestine joins the large intestine. Intussusception can be life-threatening, as it can cause gastrointestinal obstruction or cut off blood supply and kill the affected tissue. While some cases of intussusception in dogs spontaneously resolve themselves with no known explanation, most dogs that suffer from the condition require surgical intervention for treatment. If you see the signs of intussusception in your dog, you should consult your veterinarian right away for a proper diagnosis. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for intussusception in dogs.

Symptoms Of Intussusception In Dogs

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

The symptoms of intussusception in dogs usually begin when the condition causes a partial or total blockage of the digestive tract. These symptoms will likely worsen quickly and, without treatment, result in inadequate blood supply to tissue in the intestines. Portions of the intestines may die and decay, which releases dangerous toxins into the body. This can result in organ failure death within a matter of a few days. If you see the following symptoms in your dog, get to your veterinarian right away for treatment.

  • Vomiting (the vomit may be bloody or dark and have an odor of feces)
  • Diarrhea, usually bloody
  • Straining to defecate
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal distension
  • Regurgitation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Shock

Causes Of Intussusception In Dogs

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It is often difficult to determine the cause of intussusception in dogs. Any condition that causes inflammation, known as enteritis, or affects motility, which is the contraction of muscles to move substances through the digestive tract, can result in intussusception. Here are several conditions that are possible causes of intussusception in dogs.

  • Abdominal surgery
  • Parasitic infection (hookworm, whipworm, and roundworm)
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Bacterial or viral infection (including giardia, salmonella, distemper, and parvo)
  • Dietary changes
  • Tumors
  • Congenital collagen deficiency

The condition is most common in puppies, as 80 percent of intussusception cases occur in dogs under the age of one year old. Usually the affected puppy will be under three months of age. It is not generally understood why this happens.

Treatments For Intussusception In Dogs

BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 29: Veterinarians prepare a terrier, whose owner had brought it all the way from Frankfurt am Main, for surgery as veterinary students (L) look on at the Dueppel animal clinic on April 29, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. The Dueppel clinic consists of two separate facilities, one for horses and other large animals, the second for small animals. The Dueppel clinic belongs to the Freie Universitaet Berlin university and is one of five university veterinary clinics in Germany. The clinic for small animals is now the most modern in Germany. (Photo by Theo Heimann/Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Theo Heimann/Getty Images)

Treatment for intussusception in dogs usually begins with intravenous fluid therapy to replace fluids and fight dehydration caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Surgery is usually necessary to correct the condition. Sometimes the intussusception can be reduced through the surgical procedure, but often the bowel is too damaged or reversing the condition is not possible. If that is the case, part of the intestine may be removed, and the area around the removed intestine will be joined together. Antibiotics and pain medication may be prescribed as dogs recover to avoid infection and provide comfort.

The cause of the condition, if a cause is found, will be addressed as well. Gastrointestinal blockage, for example, may require surgical intervention. Some infections may be fought with antibiotics. Dietary changes may be prescribed if necessary. It is important to monitor dogs’ condition and keep up with follow-up vet visits. The rate of recurrence for intussusception may be as high as 20 percent, which is why it is necessary to follow veterinary instructions closely to prevent it.

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