Constipation can trigger discomfort for our dogs and be concerning to pet owners. Here, our Bellevue vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of constipation in dogs.
Constipation in Dogs
Have your pup's bowel movements been absent, infrequent, or difficult? They're experiencing one of the most common health issues seen in pets' digestive systems - constipation.
Pain associated with passing feces or outright Inability to pass feces is classified as a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.
If she also strains when trying to defecate or produces dry, hard stools, these are also common symptoms. Some dogs may also circle excessively, squat, scoot frequently, or pass mucus when trying to defecate. If you press on their lower back or stomach, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to cry or growl.
Possible Causes of Constipation in Dogs
Many things can contribute to a dog being constipated, including:
- Ingested pieces of plants, dirt, bones, and toys caught in the intestinal tract
- Lack of exercise
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
- Neurological disorder
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Side effects of medication
- Abscessed or blocked anal sacs
- Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Excessive or insufficient amount of fiber in her diet
- Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
- Trauma to the pelvis
- Orthopedic issues causing pain
Constipation may occur more often in senior pets. However, any dog that faces one or more of the above scenarios can suffer from constipation.
Signs of Constipation in Dogs
Symptoms of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, 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 it’s important that your vet perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.
Treatment for Constipated Dogs
When it comes to dealing with constipation in dogs, many pet owners are at a loss as to what to do. Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
The best thing to do is check in with your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. Blood tests may help reveal infection or dehydration. 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 these treatments:
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- Stool softener or another laxative
- More exercise
- 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)
- Small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength
Your vet can provide accurate advice on how to relieve constipation in dogs without endangering their health.
Follow your vet’s instructions about treating constipation in dogs closely, as trying too many of these or 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.
Why Your Dog's Constipation Must Be Treated
Untreated constipation can lead to your dog being unable to empty her colon on her 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.