Constipation can be uncomfortable and even painful for dogs. In this article, our Oakwood vets share signs, causes and tips for treating constipation in dogs.
What is constipation in dogs?
If your dog's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult or absent, they may be suffering fro constipation.
The inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.
If your pet strains when attempting to defecate and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these are also hallmark signs of constipation.
Some dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, scoot along the ground, circle excessively, or squat frequently. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they can have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry.
What causes constipation in dogs?
There may be many factors contributing to your dog’s constipation:
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- Lack of exercise
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
- Orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Trauma to the pelvis
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
- Obstruction caused by a tumor or mass on the anus, or within the rectum
- Side effects of medication & Neurological disorder
Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.
How do I know if my dog is constipated?
Dog constipation symptoms include crying, straining or crouching when attempting to defecate. Keep in mind, if it’s been more than two days since he has had a bowel movement, you should see your vet immediately.
Keep in mind that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so your vet must perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.
What can I give my dog for constipation?
If you are wondering what to do if your dog is constipated, talk to your local vet. Your local vet can recommend the best solution for your pets constipation. They may ask you to bring your dog in for an exam to take a blood test. The vet will likely take a medical history, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or a combination of the following treatments:
- More exercise
- Prescription diet high in fiber
- Stool softener or other laxative
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
- Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin or products such as Metamucil)
- Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength
- Small bowl of goat or cow milk
If you don't follow your vet’s instructions closely, the wrong combination may bring on the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.
Fortunately, we have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed and an in-house lab and pharmacy that’s stocked with a range of medications and prescription diets, providing us quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.
What happens if constipation is not treated?
If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, they may eventually be unable to 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 vomiting.