There are a handful of digestive issues dogs can develop, but constipation is one of the most common. Today, our Novato vets discuss the causes and symptoms of constipation in dogs, and how you can help your constipated pup.
Constipation in Dogs
If your pooch is having infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stool, or their bowel movements are completely absent, they are probably constipated.
It's essential for pet owners to know that it's a veterinary medical emergency when a dog is unable to pass feces or is experiencing pain associated with passing feces, and requires immediate veterinary care.
If your dog is straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.
Sometimes, dogs pass mucus when they are attempting to defecate, scoot along the ground, circle excessively, or squat frequently without defecating. If you press on your pup's stomach or lower back, they might have a tense, painful abdomen that makes them cry or growl.
The Causes of Dog Constipation
Your dog's constipation could be caused by a variety of things, a few of the most common are:
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Lack of exercise
- A side effect of medication
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair to collect in the stool)
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt, and bones caught in the intestinal tract
- Matted hair surrounding the anus (from obesity or lack of grooming)
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- An orthopedic issue that causes pain when a dog positions to defecate
- Neurological disorder
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Trauma to pelvis
- Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
Senior dogs might experience constipation more frequently. But, any dog that encounters one or more of the scenarios detailed above can experience constipation.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs
Signs of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if more than two days have passed since your dog has had a bowel movement, you should bring them to the vet immediately.
Remember that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so it’s important for your vet to perform a comprehensive physical exam as quickly as possible to diagnose the underlying cause.
What Can I Give My Dog to Help Their Constipation?
Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
Never give your dog human medications or treatments without asking your vet first. Many medications that are formulated for humans are toxic to dogs.
The best thing you can do for your dog is to schedule an appointment with your vet so they can diagnose and treat the underlying cause. The treatments your veterinarian uses will depend on the source of your pup's issue.
If your furry friend has eaten something they shouldn't have a blockage could be causing the problem. This is a medical emergency that will probably need urgent surgery.
Blood tests may help reveal that your pup has an infection or is suffering from dehydration. Your vet will probably take your dog's medical history, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and might recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
- More exercise
- A stool softener or another laxative
- A prescription diet that's high in fiber
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
- A small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Medication to increase large intestine’s contractile strength
- Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or products such as Metamucil)
It's imperative that you carefully follow your vet’s instructions because too many of these or the wrong combination could lead to the opposite issue - diarrhea. You don’t want to swap one digestive condition for another.
When Dog Constipation Goes Untreated
If your dog’s constipation is left untreated, they may get to the point where they can't empty their colon on their own (a condition called obstipation). The colon then becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite, and potentially vomiting.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.