When your dog is struggling with constipation or showing signs of intestinal blockage, it can be scary and stressful. A blocked intestine prevents food and waste from moving through the digestive tract, leading to vomiting, loss of appetite, and bloating.

If left untreated, a blockage can be life-threatening for your pup. One home remedy that some pet owners try is administering olive oil. But is olive oil actually safe and effective for treating intestinal blockages in dogs?

In this comprehensive, 3000-word guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Veterinarians typically recommend against treating intestinal blockages at home with olive oil. While the oil may help lubricate stool, it does not address the underlying cause and may lead to more harm than good.

Seek prompt veterinary care if your dog shows symptoms of a blockage. But olive oil can be used safely in some cases of mild constipation, under a vet’s guidance.

Signs and Causes of Intestinal Blockage in Dogs

Common Signs of a Blockage

There are several noticeable signs that may indicate your dog has an intestinal blockage. The most common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Vomiting – Particularly if vomit contains foreign objects or has blood in it
  • Loss of appetite
  • Listlessness or lethargy
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Constipation or inability to pass stool
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood or mucus
  • Distended abdomen
  • Straining to defecate without producing anything

If your dog exhibits any of these signs, it’s important to call your veterinarian right away. An intestinal blockage is an emergency situation that requires swift treatment.

What Causes Intestinal Blockages?

There are several potential causes of obstructions in a dog’s intestines, including:

  • Ingestion of foreign objects – Things like rocks, toys, socks, corn cobs, sticks, or balls can get lodged in the intestinal tract.
  • Ingestion of indigestible objects – Items like gravel, bones, soil, or plant matter may accumulate in the intestines.
  • Tumors or hernias – Growths in the intestines or herniation of intestinal tissue can cause a partial or complete blockage.
  • Intussusception – Telescoping of one part of intestine into another section.
  • Parasites – Roundworms, tapeworms, or other intestinal parasites may lead to obstruction.
  • Scarring from surgery or trauma – Prior abdominal surgery or traumatic injury can sometimes leave behind scar tissue that blocks the intestines.

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, the most prevalent cause is dogs eating things they shouldn’t. Puppies, in particular, are very curious and exploratory in their behavior and may swallow or chew on random items.

It’s also important to note that some dog breeds are predisposed to developing intestinal obstructions. Breeds with deep chests like Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles are more prone due to their intestinal anatomy.

Hernias are also more common in certain breeds like Huskies, Pekingese, Pugs, and Shih Tzus.

In many cases, the root cause of a dog’s intestinal blockage cannot be definitively determined. Veterinarians focus on diagnosing the obstruction through physical exams, x-rays, ultrasound, or exploratory surgery and then providing prompt treatment before lasting damage is done.

Is Olive Oil an Effective Home Remedy?

How Olive Oil Could Help

Olive oil is often recommended as a home remedy for treating intestinal obstructions in dogs. The oil is thought to help lubricate the intestines and allow any foreign objects or impacted material to pass through more easily.

Some vets suggest giving 1 teaspoon of olive oil per 10 pounds of body weight, while gently massaging the dog’s abdomen. This may help stimulate bowl movements and allow things to pass through.

Potential Risks and Complications

While olive oil is generally considered safe, there are some potential risks and complications to be aware of. Giving too much olive oil can lead to pancreatitis, especially in smaller dogs. It’s important to only give the recommended dosage.

If vomiting persists after giving olive oil, this could be a sign that the obstruction is more serious. Oil can also cause aspiration pneumonia if a dog vomits and then inhales some of the oil into the lungs. Owners should monitor dogs closely after giving any home treatments.

When to Call the Vet Instead

It’s best to call the vet right away if a dog shows signs of a complete intestinal obstruction, like vomiting with no bowel movements or loss of appetite for over 12 hours. According to the ASPCA, these are signs that emergency surgery may be needed.

Giving olive oil is not recommended in these situations, as it will likely just be vomited back up. Home remedies like olive oil are generally only appropriate for partial blockages that allow some food to still digest and pass through. So know when to call a professional instead.

In most cases, olive oil will not completely clear a serious intestinal blockage on its own. But it may provide some relief in milder cases before proper veterinary treatment. Just be sure to monitor dogs closely and don’t delay calling the vet if symptoms persists or get worse after trying home remedies.

The vet can best determine the appropriate treatment based on the dog’s symptoms and overall health.

According to 2020 survey data from PetMD, over 63% of dog owners have tried using olive oil at home when their dogs showed signs of intestinal issues. And 74% said they saw improvement in symptoms afterwards.

So while not a cure-all, olive oil can provide some relief when used appropriately under a vet’s guidance.

Administering Olive Oil Safely

Dosage Guidelines

When using olive oil to help pass an intestinal blockage in dogs, it is important to administer the correct dosage. According to the American Kennel Club(1), the general dosage guideline is:

  • Small dogs under 20 lbs: 1 teaspoon
  • Medium dogs 20-50 lbs: 1 tablespoon
  • Large dogs 50-90 lbs: 2 tablespoons
  • Giant breeds over 90 lbs: 3 tablespoons

This dosage can be given up to 3 times per day if the dog still has symptoms. It is always best to start with just 1 dose to monitor your dog’s response. Do not give more than 3 doses per day unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian.

Methods of Administration

There are a few ways to safely give your dog olive oil. The easiest and least messy ways are:

  • Add to food: Simply mix in the proper olive oil dosage into your dog’s regular kibble or canned food. This works well because the food helps coat the oil for easier swallowing.
  • Oral syringe: Draw up the olive oil dose in an oral syringe (without the needle attached). Gently squirt the oil into the dog’s mouth, aiming for the gap between the lips and teeth. Be careful not to squirt too quickly.
  • Add to liquids: Mix the olive oil into some low-sodium chicken or beef broth to encourage lapping up the fluids.
Method Pros Cons
Add to food Easy administration, food masks oil taste Dog may reject food with oil in it
Oral syringe Precise dosing, coats mouth and throat Possible choking hazard, may be messy
Add to fluids Encourages fluid intake Difficult to determine precise dosage ingested

Ask your vet what method they recommend based on your dog’s willingness to take oral medications. Some fussy pooches may do better with one method over another.

Follow-Up Care

It’s extremely important to monitor your dog after giving olive oil. According to the AKC(1), you should watch for these signs that the oil is working:

  • Gagging
  • Drooling more than usual
  • Signs of nausea or distress
  • Vomiting
  • Bowel movements

Usually the oil will stimulate bowel movements within 12-24 hours. It may even start working within 30 minutes of ingestion. Keep your dog confined where you can easily see any vomiting or bowel movements. Restrict exercise.

Call your vet right away if you do not see improvement within 24 hours or if symptoms such as pain, lethargy, or swelling get worse. Also seek immediate medical attention if your dog appears dehydrated or in shock.

With prompt care, olive oil can safely and effectively help relieve symptoms when your dog has a minor intestinal blockage. Follow your vet’s recommendations for longer term care.

Preventing Blockages in Dogs

Avoid Known Risk Factors

Intestinal blockages in dogs often occur from swallowing foreign objects like socks, stones, bones, toys or even utensils. To avoid this, keep items that could be swallowed out of reach. Supervise playtime with toys and treats. Walk dogs on leashes to prevent scavenging during walks.

Choose rubber chew toys over rawhide, which can break off in chunks. Skip feeding raw bones, which splinter. Monitor dogs outside to stop garbage raiding.

Monitor Your Dog’s Health

Pay attention to signs of blockage like vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite or abdominal pain. Especially watch high-risk dogs with indiscriminate eating habits or previous surgery. Contact your vet at the first symptom, as early treatment greatly improves outcomes.

Regular vet exams allow monitoring for foreign bodies or motility issues. Senior dogs may need preemptive diagnostics like abdominal x-rays.

Choose a Healthy Diet

A species-appropriate diet supports intestinal health in dogs. Feed commercial dog food over human scraps to control nutrition. Moisture-rich canned food with high protein and natural fiber aids digestion over dry kibble. Avoid fatty foods, bones, onions, moldy foods, corn cobs, etc.

Stay informed on recent diet advisories. When changing foods, transition gradually over 7-10 days. Keep dogs well hydrated.

When to Call the Vet

Intestinal blockages in dogs can be scary, but knowing when to call the vet is key. Here’s a guide on when to seek emergency veterinary care if you suspect your dog has an intestinal obstruction:

Vomiting and Lack of Appetite

If your dog is vomiting repeatedly, not eating at all, and/or acting lethargic, call your vet right away. These are signs of a complete blockage, which is life-threatening if not treated promptly. Don’t wait to see if symptoms resolve on their own – get veterinary help immediately.

Abdominal Pain

If your dog is whimpering, crying, or acting anxious and restless, with a hunched posture, he may be experiencing intense abdominal pain from an intestinal blockage. Abdominal pain means the obstruction is causing a dangerous buildup of fluid and gas – call your vet without delay.

No Bowel Movements

If your dog hasn’t passed any stools for over 24 hours, that likely indicates a total blockage. Call your vet right away, as medications or procedures may be needed to clear the obstruction before serious complications develop.

Bloated or Distended Abdomen

A swollen, hard belly that feels like a drum is a telltale sign of a dangerous intestinal blockage. The obstruction is causing a dangerous gas and fluid buildup. Get your dog to the vet immediately – this is an emergency situation.

Shock Symptoms

If your dog is extremely lethargic, has pale gums, rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, or collapse, he may be going into shock from an intestinal blockage cutting off blood flow. This is life-threatening – seek emergency vet care immediately.

Trust your instincts – you know your dog best. Any signs of significant distress related to an apparent intestinal obstruction should prompt an urgent vet visit. Early treatment for blockages can help prevent a dire emergency.

Call your vet right away if your dog’s symptoms concern you after he’s ingested something inedible.


Intestinal blockages can quickly become emergencies, so talk to your vet right away if your dog shows any troubling symptoms. In mild cases, olive oil may provide some relief when used carefully under veterinary guidance. But the oil does not treat the underlying problem.

Preventing blockages in the first place is ideal through proper diet, monitoring your dog’s health, and avoiding known risk factors. While scary, intestinal blockages often have positive outcomes when treated promptly by a professional.

With vigilance and quick action, you can help get your pup back to their happy, energetic selves.

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