Ileus is a severe and acute condition in which the intestinal passage is obstructed and as a result digested food cannot be transported past the blockage.


Urgency level 5


Danger level 5


The predominant symptom of ileus is severe abdominal pain, also referred to as colic. Animals suffering from ileus are unsteady and turn their heads repeatedly to the side to lick their belly and flanks. If a gas buildup behind the blockage occurs, the abdomen can swell up with trapped gas. Due to the inability to digest and pass food normally, the animal becomes anorexic and will usually not drink water either.


Ileus, a disruption of the normal ability of the propulsive ability of the digestive system, occurs in the small intestine. This is because the small intestine is actually the longest, most curvy and twisted section of the bowels. Because of this length, the small intestine has the potential to become a source of trouble inside the abdomen. Young dogs suffer more readily from ileus, especially after episodes of enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine) with heavy diarrhea. There are two main types of illeus: a mechanical ileus and a paralytic ileus. Mechanical ileus A mechanical ileus occurs when something is obstructing the normal passage of digested material (i.e. a foreign body, a tumor, a heavy infestation with worms) through the intestine. Twisting or strangulation of the intestinal tube is also defined as a mechanical ileus. Strangulation of this kind is a type of is often a complication that results from umbilical hernias (unbilical hernias are hernias that occurr when the intestine protrudes through an opening in the abdominal muscle) or inguinal hernias (when part of the intestine protrudes through the groin). Also, the intestinal tube can slide into itself and thus cause blockage. This is known as invagination, and is the result of an infolding of intestinal tube. Paralytic ileus A paralytic ileus is less common and is mostly the result of intestinal infections (i.e. peritonitis, pancreatitis) where bowel innervation (stimulation) is impaired and thus normal intestinal movement seizes. "Paralytic" in this sense means, "characteristic of or resembling paralysis–meaning, the loss or impairment of the ability to move a body part, usually as a result of damage to its nerve supply. A mechanical ileus is often followed by a paralytic ileus, and both forms may be present at the same time.


Upon handling the abdomen is tight and hard and no movement can be heard. Ultrasound and x-ray examination can reveal grossly distended bowel slings and possibly even the site of the blockage. In the case of a mechanical ileus, surgery is necessary to remove the blockage.

Emergency measures

If an ileus is suspected your vet or an emergency clinic should be consulted immediately.

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