Symptoms of constipation can be uncomfortable for our dogs - and concerning for pup parents. Our Glendale vets share signs of constipation in dogs, causes, and tips for treating constipation in dogs.
What is constipation in dogs?
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.
The 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.
When attempting to defecate, some dogs may pass mucus, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently. When you press on their stomach or lower back, they may experience a tense, painful abdomen, causing them to growl or cry.
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
- 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 the pelvis
Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.
What are the signs of constipation in dogs?
Constipation symptoms include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if it's been more than two days since he's had a bowel movement, you should take him to the vet right away.
Keep in mind that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so your vet must perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.
How to Treat Constipation in Dogs
Google “How to relieve constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
The best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian and have your dog examined. Blood tests may be used to detect infection or dehydration. The veterinarian will most likely take a medical history, perform a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or more of the following 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 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
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?
If your dog's constipation is left untreated, he may eventually become obstipated, or unable to empty his colon on his own. The result is an uncomfortable buildup of feces in the colon, which results in lethargy, fruitless straining, appetite loss, and possibly vomiting.