Dogs with a disorder called pyloric stenosis often suffer chronic intestinal blockage. Obstruction is caused when the pyloric sphincter — or the muscular valve that separates the stomach and the small intestine — becomes constricted, preventing the passage of food and causing the animal to vomit meals almost entirely undigested (Reference 3). To receive necessary energy and nutrients, dogs experiencing pyloric blockage must be fed a special diet or, in severe cases, undergo surgery to correct the condition.
Veterinarians aren’t sure what exactly causes pyloric stenosis, although the condition seems to appear most frequently in small breeds and short-faced breeds like boxers and bulldogs (Reference 1). The disorder is usually treatable, but may require a change in the way you feed your dog. Before altering your dog’s diet, however, it’s important to get a correct diagnosis from a veterinarian because many other disorders have symptoms similar to pyloric blockage (Reference 1, page 2).
Pyloric blockage can range from the occasional flare-up to a chronic condition causing serious weight loss and even death when untreated (Reference 3). In mild cases, a simple diet change may prevent future incidents. The Canine Inherited Disorders Database recommends feeding many small meals of easy-to-digest food, such as wet food or complete balanced liquid food (References 2 and 4). A veterinarian can recommend the ideal diet based on your dog's condition.
If the dog does not respond to its adjusted diet, surgery is usually the next step. Many cases of chronic pyloric blockage can be solved with surgical treatment. Typically, the operation involves making a cut in the pyloric sphincter to prevent it from constricting too tightly or enlarging the portion of the stomach where food enters the intestines (Reference 3).
In the first 24 hours after surgery, the dog will receive nutrition intravenously. After 24 hours, water can be added to the animal’s diet. If the dog can handle water without vomiting, it can be given a small amount of moist food. If vomiting does occur, a veterinarian may prescribe drugs to help normalize the stomach contractions that move food through the digestive system (Reference 1, page 4). After recovery, many dogs are able to resume their regular feeding regimen (Reference 1, page 5).