Constipation symptoms can be uncomfortable for dogs and cause concern for pet owners. To help alleviate this issue, our emergency vets in Meadow Vista offer guidance on identifying signs of constipation in dogs, determining the root causes, and providing effective treatment tip
What is constipation in dogs?
Constipation is common in pets, where their bowel movements become infrequent, difficult, or absent.
This problem can cause pain and discomfort for dogs and may require immediate veterinary care if they experience pain or cannot pass feces.
Signs of constipation may include straining during defecation, hard and dry stools, mucus in feces, excessive circling, scooting or squatting, and a tense, painful abdomen that may cause dogs to growl or cry when touched in the stomach or lower back.
What causes 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 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
Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog facing one or more scenarios above can suffer from constipation.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Signs of constipation in dogs include straining, crying, or crouching during defecation and no bowel movement for more than two days.
However, these symptoms can also indicate a urinary tract issue, so it's essential to have your pet undergo a complete physical examination by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.
How is constipation in dogs treated?
Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from trustworthy and dubious sources.
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 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)
- A small bowl of goat or cow milk
- Medication to increase the 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 happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?
Untreated constipation in dogs can lead to a condition called obstipation, where they become unable to empty their colon. This results in a build-up of a large number of feces in the colon, which causes discomfort, lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite, and possibly vomiting.