Constipation in dogs may seem like a minor problem, but it can be life-threatening depending on the cause. Here, our Fairfield, NJ veterinary team offers advice on what to do if your dog is constipated.
Is your dog constipated?
If your pup's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult for them to pass, or absent, your pet is likely suffering from constipation.
Straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or producing hard, dry stools, are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.
Constipated dogs may pass mucus when attempting to defecate, excessively circle, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently without defecating. When you press on their stomach or lower back, they may experience a tense, painful abdomen, causing them to growl or cry out.
It's important for pet parents to know that the inability to pass feces or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care!
What causes constipation in dogs?
There are a number of possible causes of constipation in dogs, some of the most common include:
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt, and bones caught in the intestinal tract
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair collected in the stool)
- A side effect of medication
- An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Neurological disorder
- Obstruction is caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
- Trauma to pelvis
Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.
Signs of Constipation in Dogs
Constipation symptoms include straining, crying, or crouching when trying to defecate. Also, if he hasn't had a bowel movement in more than two days, you should take him to the vet right away.
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.
How to Treat Constipation in Dogs
Google “how to relieve constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
Never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your vet first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.
The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. Treating constipation in dogs will depend upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.
If your pooch has eaten something it shouldn't have there is a chance that there is a blockage causing the issue. This is a medical emergency that will likely require urgent surgery.
Blood tests may reveal whether your dog has an infection or is dehydrated. The veterinarian will most likely take a medical history, perform a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- A 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)
- A small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength
Follow your vet’s instructions 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.
Potential Complication Due to Constipation in Dogs
If your dog's constipation is not treated, they may become unable to empty their colon on their own (a condition called obstipation). The colon is then overburdened with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, resulting in lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite, and possibly 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.