Constipation is an uncomfortable condition that can affect dogs of all ages. Unfortunately, it can also lead to serious complications if left untreated. Our Snellville vets discuss constipation in dogs, as well as the signs, causes and what to do when it happens to your pup.
My Dog is Constipated: How did this happen?
Constipation in dogs happens when their bowel movements are infrequent, difficult or absent. This is one of the most common conditions experienced by dogs.
If your dog is suffering from constipation, it 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.
What causes constipation in dogs?
Some of the most commonly noted causes of constipation in dogs include:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
- Neurological disorder
- Side effects 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)
- 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
While older dogs are more likely to experience constipation, it can affect dogs of all ages.
The Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs
Dog constipation symptoms can include straining, crying or crouching when attempting to defecate. You should also reach out a vet right away if it has been more than two days since your dog last had a poop.
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.
What can I give my dog for constipation?
Google “How to help a constipated dog” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
If your dog is constipated you should bring them to a vet right away for an examination. 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:
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- A stool softener or other laxatives
- 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)
- Small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength
You will need to follow your vet's instructions closely as over-treating your dog can lead to diarrhea which is the opposite problem but can also cause serious complications. 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 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.
So if you are wondering what to do if your dog is constipated, the first step should always be to reach out to your vet. They can offer solutions and schedule an examination to determine the severity of the constipation.