While constipation in dogs may seem like a minor problem, or even just an annoyance, it can actually be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Here, our Apple Valley vets offer some advice about what to do if your dog becomes constipated.
Is your dog constipated?
If you notice that your dog has infrequent bowel movements or they are finding their stool difficult or even impossible to pass, they are likely suffering from constipation.
Straining while attempting to pass stool and/or producing very hard and dry stool is also considered a signs that your dog should be examined by a vet for constipation as quickly as possible.
Constipated dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, may scoot along the ground, may squat frequently without defecating at all, or may circle more often than normal before passing stool. If you press on the stomach and lower back of a constipated dog, they may have a tense or painful abdomen that causes them to 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!
Causes of Constipation in Dogs
There are a number of possible causes for your dog's constipation. Some of the most common causes include:
- Lack of exercise
- A side effect of medication
- Neurological disorder
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair to collect in the stool)
- Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
- Obstruction 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.
Dog Constipation Symptoms
Signs 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.
Remember that these symptoms may seem similar to those that may point towards a urinary tract infection. Because of this, your vet will need to perform a full physical examination in order to diagnose the cause of your pet's discomfort.
How to Help a Constipated Dog
Google “What can I give my dog for constipation” 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 absolutely best thing to do for your pet is to contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. The treatment for your dog's constipation will depend on the underlying cause of their condition.
If your dog has eaten something that they shouldn't have, there is a chance that a blockage is causing the issue. This is considered a medical emergency and will require urgent surgery.
Blood tests may help reveal that your pup has an infection or is suffering from 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:
- More exercise
- Prescription diet high with fiber
- Stool softener or another laxative
- Medication to increase large intestine’s contractile strength
- Small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin or products such as Metamucil)
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
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 isn't treated, it could reach a point where they aren't able to empty their colon at all (when constipation reaches this point, its referred to as constipation). Their colon will then become backed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing unproductive straining, a loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy.
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.