Intestinal Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

3 min read

Ileus in Dogs

Ileus (functional or paralytic) is a term used to denote temporary and reversible obstruction in the intestines caused by bowel motility problems. Problems with peristalsis (or wave-like contractions that help move food along the digestive tract) results in the accumulation of intestinal contents in certain areas of the intestines. Therefore, ileus is not a primary disease, rather a result due to some other disease or condition affecting motility of intestine.

Symptoms and Types

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Mild abdominal distention or discomfort due to gas accumulation due to obstruction


  • After gastrointestinal surgery
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Infections and inflammatory diseases of gastrointestinal tract
  • Persisting mechanical obstruction (e.g., foreign body in GI tract)
  • Blockages of blood supply to intestine or part of intestine
  • Septicemia (body wide illness due to presence of bacteria in blood) due to gram negative bacteria
  • Shock
  • Abdominal injury
  • Distention of intestines due to aerophagia or excessive burping or belching
  • After use of certain drugs
  • Toxicity (e.g., lead)


After recording a detailed history and performing a complete physical examination, routine laboratory tests will be conducted. These tests include complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The main objective of the diagnostic effort is to find the underlying cause of this problem. Results of routine laboratory testing may reveal some information related to the underlying disease. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound will help in finding various abnormalities including: presence of gas, fluid, mechanical obstruction (e.g., foreign body), tumor in abdomen, and other such conditions.

For confirmation, your veterinarian may use more specific testing like Barium-Impregnated Polyethylene Spheres (BIPS). Barium is a chemical used in certain radiological studies to enhance visualization of anatomical structures. BIPS are markers given orally and will demonstrate the extent of intestinal obstruction and motility disorder. Your veterinarian will assess the time it takes for these markers to move along the intestines and how much delay is involved. This test also helps in the localization of the anatomical site involved.

Endoscopy is also an option for diagnosis, especially for an assessment of mechanical obstruction. Your veterinarian will look directly into the stomach and intestine using an instrument called an endoscope. A rigid or flexible tube will be inserted into your dog’s stomach, where your veterinarian will be able to visually inspect and take pictures. In some cases, exploratory surgery may need to be performed to rule out mechanical obstruction. X-ray, computed tomography scan, magnetic imaging test, and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid (fluid circulate around brain and spinal cord) may be required in animals with suspected spinal cord injury.

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