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Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Signs & What to Do

Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Signs & What to Do

Constipation is a very uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening concern for dogs. Our Nashua vets talk about the causes and symptoms of constipation in dogs and when you should contact your vet.

My Dog is Constipated: Why?

A lack of bowel movements along with crying and discomfort might indicate that your dog is experiencing a condition well known to many pet owners - constipation.

Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.

You may also notice straining to pass hard and dry stools which also indicates constipation.

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

The list of potential causes behind constipation in dogs is extensive but here are some of the most commonly seen causes:

  • 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 pelvis

If you have an older dog you may witness the symptoms listed above more frequently.  They may also be any combination of the symptoms listed above and not just one.

Dog Constipation Symptoms

If your dog is constipated then they may appear to be straining while trying to have a bowel movement. 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 to Treat Dog Constipation

Google “How to help a constipated dog” and you’ll discover a trove of options ranging from accurate and safe to ineffective or even dangerous.

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)
  • 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 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.

The Repercussions of Leaving a Constipated Dog Untreated

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 Bring Your Dog to See the 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.

Are you noticing that your dog is having a difficult time going to the bathroom? Visit our vets in Nashua to have your dog examined as soon as possible.

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