Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

Overview of Canine Pyloric Obstruction or Stenosis

The pylorus is the lower portion of the stomach that leads into the small intestine of the dog. Pyloric obstruction or stenosis usually refers to a thickening of the various layers of muscle and mucosa (stomach lining tissue) that make up this region, leading to obstruction of flow of food or water through the stomach. This thickening is a benign, non-cancerous process.

Pyloric obstruction or stenosis is most commonly seen in brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds of dog such as boxers, Boston terriers and bulldogs. These dogs tend to be young and predominantly male. It can also occur as a more chronic condition in small breeds of dog such as Lhasa apso, shih tzu and Maltese terrier. These dogs tend to be middle-aged to older.

If food and water cannot move through the stomach, the dog will regurgitate or vomit and become sick, dehydrated, and depressed. Untreated, the chronic vomiting can lead to significant metabolic problems, weight loss and the risk of aspiration pneumonia. This combination of problems could easily become fatal.

What to Watch For

In young animals, vomiting often occurs at the time of weaning onto solid foods.

Diagnosis of Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

A detailed history and physical examination can initially lead your veterinarian to suspect pyloric obstruction. Additional tests are necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. Tests may include:

Treatment for Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention

Your dog’s abdominal skin incision will need to be monitored for swelling, redness or discharge. Staples or stitches can be removed in 10 to 14 days.

Your pet will have received pain-killers (analgesics) during the period of hospitalization and these may continue in oral form when he goes home.

Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding feeding and contact your veterinarian if your dog begins vomiting or does not eat.

The cause of this disease is not known. For this reason there is nothing an owner can do to prevent the problem from occurring. Prompt veterinary care for your vomiting pet is the best course of action.

In-depth Information on Canine Pyloric Obstruction or Stenosis

Many disorders can lead to vomiting and most of them are far more common than pyloric obstruction or stenosis. These conditions may include:

It is important that you make sure that your dog is truly vomiting and not simply regurgitating food. Vomiting is an active process involving contraction of the abdominal musculature and partially digested food as opposed to passive regurgitation in which undigested food simply falls from the mouth when the head is lowered toward the ground.

Vomiting is the most common clinical sign of pyloric obstruction, but it may be intermittent and may not occur for several hours after feeding. Vomiting may occur several times a day or only once or twice a week. Since pyloric stenosis occurs frequently as a congenital problem your puppy is born with, vomiting often begins when after beginning to eat solid food.

Diagnostic Test In-Depth for Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

Treatment In-Depth for Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

The effects of chronic vomiting or regurgitation must be addressed in treatment. This will include placement of an intravenous catheter to initiate fluid therapy, not only to correct dehydration but also to correct for electrolyte imbalance.

The pyloric obstruction or stenosis can involve the muscular portion of the stomach, the lining layer or mucosa of the stomach, or both. Different surgical procedures were originally developed to address these different conditions.

The simplest procedure involves cutting the thickened muscular layer of the pylorus and leaving the mucosa intact. This does not allow inspection or biopsy of the mucosa and is probably only a temporary solution. For these reasons it is no longer recommended.
Other techniques cut through all the layers and then widen the lumen of the pylorus. These procedures can be performed using suture material or surgical stapling equipment.

Your pet will have been shaved along his belly and have an abdominal incision. Check the site for swelling, redness or discharge on a daily basis. If you have concerns do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian. If licking of the incision occurs, an Elizabethan collar may become necessary. The staples or stitches will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days.

It will be important to monitor eating and drinking. Offer small amounts of water at a time rather than filling a bowl full, which may cause your dog to gorge and vomit. Do the same with solid food, offering the same total amount of food each day as normal, but, when possible, divide it into several feedings. After a week or so, you can resume your regular feeding regime.

Continue with antacids, antibiotics, and any other treatments sent home with your pet.

Allow your dog to stay quiet and rested for the first few weeks after surgery, just taking slow leash walks, and eliminating anything excessive. Be particularly observant of eating and drinking habits, especially if your have more than one pet.

Do not offer your pet any chew toys, pig’s ears, rawhide, bones or anything of that nature for several weeks after the procedure. If vomiting recurs, even sporadic, then you should not hesitate to consult with your veterinarian.

Prevention In-depth for Pyloric Obstruction/Stenosis in Dogs

The exact cause of pyloric obstruction or stenosis is unknown. It is more commonly seen in the short-faced brachycephalic breeds of dogs but clearly only a small number have this problem. Because there is no known genetic component to the disorder, knowing whether the sire and dam of a brachephalic puppy has had this disease would be of no benefit.

Providing a safe environment for your dog with regard to potential gastric foreign bodies and ensuring your pet is properly vaccinated will decrease the likelihood of some of the causes of vomiting that may be mistaken for pyloric obstruction or stenosis.

All animals may occasionally vomit, but should this persist or be intermittently recurrent, particularly in a young animal, then you should seek immediate veterinary attention. It does not take long for a puppy to become extremely dehydrated and sick with frequent bouts of vomiting.

Early diagnosis of pyloric obstruction or stenosis and appropriate surgical correction has a good prognosis that should not have any long-standing effects on your dog’s digestive system.