Constipation is not only uncomfortable for our furry friends, but it can also lead to serious complications if not treated quickly. Our Rancho Cucamonga vets talk about the symptoms that accompany constipation and how your dog can be treated both at the vet clinic and at home.
My Dog is Constipated: Why?
If your pooch’s bowel movements are infrequent, difficult or absent, he is suffering from one of the most common health problems seen in pets’ digestive systems - constipation.
Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.
If he also strains when attempting to defecate and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these are also hallmark signs.
Some dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry.
Causes of Constipation in Dogs
There may be many factors contributing to your dog’s constipation:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illness leading to dehydration
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (may cause large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
- Neurological disorder
- Side effect of medication
- 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 anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
- 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.
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 is constipation in dogs treated?
Google “How to help a constipated dog” 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:
- Prescription diet high in fiber
- Stool softener or other laxative
- More exercise
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be 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 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.
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.
What can I give my dog for constipation?
So you may be wondering what to do if your dog is constipated. Home remedies can be helpful but you should always be sure to speak with your vet first to ensure there are no other concerns as constipation can be a symptom of a more serious underlying cause.
Here are some of the recommended home remedies to help relieve your dog of constipation:
- Pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree contains both fiber and moisture which can help get things moving along again. Just be sure to find 100% pure pumpkin puree.
- Canned dog food. Canned dog food is high in moisture which can help to soften their stool. Be sure to mix it with their regular food to avoid any other issues.
- Dietary fiber supplements. A simple way of jumpstarting the digestive tract is with the introduction of more fiber. This can be done using supplements. You will need to speak with your vet before giving your dog any supplements.
- Fresh water. Drinking lots of water can help soften your dog's stools but if they won't drink at all then you should bring them to a vet right away.
- Exercise. Taking your dog out for a long walk or run or even playing a game can help get everything moving again.
What can happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?
If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, he may eventually be unable to empty his colon on his 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.
When to See a Veterinarian
You should always monitor the frequency of your dog's bowel movements along with checking on the appearance of the stools. If your dog shows signs of constipation then you should increase their water and fiber intake right away or try one of the other remedies listed above. If the constipation is still apparent after two days or if they are showing signs of serious pain or other concerning symptoms then you should bring them to see a vet as soon as possible.
In order to help your vet accurately diagnose your pet's condition you will want to offer them some key information such as:
- The frequency that your dog has been having bowel movements
- The appearance of the stools
- Any changes in your dog's life or diet
- Anything that your dog may have eaten (including non-edible objects)
- Medications that your dog is taking
- Any injuries that your dog has sustained
- symptoms they are experiencing such as pain and straining
- Signs of distress or discomfort, especially vomiting, lethargy, or bloating
Along with a physical exam, your vet may also perform diagnostic testing to help diagnose the cause of your dog's constipation and to create a plan to properly treat their condition.
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.