Of all the digestive problems dogs can develop constipation is one of the most common. While you might not think it is serious, constipation could be life-threatening depending on what's causing it. Here, our Seattle vets discuss the causes of constipation in dogs and how you can help your pup.
Constipation in Dogs
If your dog is having infrequent bowel movements, they're difficult for your pup to pass, or completely absent, your pup is probably experiencing constipation.
It's critical for dog owners to know that it's a veterinary emergency when a dog is unable to pass feces or is experiencing pain associated with passing feces. If this sounds like your dog they require immediate care!
If your dog is straining when trying to pass a stool and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these are also signs that indicate your dog needs to be examined by a vet quickly.
Occasionally, when attempting to defecate, dogs may pass mucus, scoot along the ground, circle excessively, or squat frequently without defecating. If you press on your dog's lower back or stomach, he or she may experience a painful, tense abdomen that causes them to cry or growl.
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
When attempting to defecate, signs of constipation include straining, crying, or squatting. Also, if it has been more than two days since their last bowel movement, you should consult your veterinarian 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 can I give my dog for constipation?
Google 'How to help a constipated dog' or 'what to do if your dog is constipated' 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. The treatment for your dog's constipation will depend upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.
If your pooch has eaten something they 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.
If your dog suffers from dehydration or has an infection, blood tests may reveal this. Your veterinarian will likely inquire about your dog's medical history, perform a rectal exam to rule out other abnormalities or causes, and may recommend one or more 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 left untreated, your dog's constipation could lead to obstipation, a condition in which they are unable to empty their colon on their own. The colon then becomes clogged with an uncomfortable amount of feces, resulting in lethargy, ineffective 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.