Constipation is a widespread digestive issue among dogs. Even though it may not seem like a big deal, it can actually be quite dangerous depending on the cause. In this post, our veterinarians at Blountville talk about what can lead to constipation in dogs and share some tips on what to do about it.
Constipation in Dogs
If your dog is having trouble with their bowel movements—either infrequent, difficult, or nonexistent—it's likely a case of constipation. It's important for dog owners to understand that when a dog is unable to pass feces or experiences pain during the process, it's a veterinary emergency. If this describes your dog's situation, immediate care is necessary.
Additionally, if your dog is straining while attempting to defecate or producing hard, dry stools, these are also signs that warrant prompt veterinary examination.
Sometimes, dogs may pass mucus during their attempts to defecate, exhibit scooting behavior, excessively circle, or frequently squat without defecating. If you apply pressure to your dog's lower back or stomach and they respond with a tense, painful abdomen accompanied by crying or growling, it could indicate a problem.
Causes of Dog Constipation
There are a variety of reasons why a dog can become constipated, a few of the most common are:
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in their diet
- A side effect of medication
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair to collect in the stool)
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt, or bones caught in the intestinal tract
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- Trauma to pelvis
- Neurological disorder
- An orthopedic issue that's causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
Senior pets might experience constipation more frequently. Although, any dog that's facing one or more of the scenarios listed above could suffer from constipation.
Common Constipation Symptoms in Dogs
Signs of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if it’s been more than two days since they have had a bowel movement, see your vet immediately.
Remember these symptoms may be similar to those that may point to a urinary tract issue, so it’s important for your vet to perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.
What You Can Give Your Dog for 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 medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your vet first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.
The best course of action is to get in touch with your veterinarian and schedule an examination for your dog. The treatment approach for your dog's constipation will depend on what is causing it.
If your dog has ingested something they shouldn't have, there is a possibility of a blockage that could be the root cause. This is considered a medical emergency, and it may require immediate surgical intervention.
Blood tests can provide insights into potential dehydration or infection in your dog. Your veterinarian will likely inquire about your dog's medical history and perform a rectal examination to rule out other abnormalities or causes. They may suggest one or a combination of the following treatments:
- More exercise
- A stool softener or another laxative
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
- Medication to increase large intestine’s contractile strength
- A small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or products such as Metamucil)
Carefully follow your vet’s instructions because trying too many of these or the wrong combination could cause the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to swap one digestive issue for another.
What Happens When Constipation in Dogs Goes Untreated
If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, they could reach the point where they become 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 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.