If your dog is struggling or showing signs of discomfort when trying to have a bowel movement, they may be constipated. Our Kingman vets share signs of constipation in dogs, causes and tips for treating the condition.
Constipation in Dogs: Should I Worry?
If your dog is having obvious issues when trying to poop they are likely constipated. This is one of the most common issues affecting dogs of all ages and sizes.
Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.
If your dog is straining or passing hard stools this can also be a solid sign that your dog is constipated.
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 leading causes of constipation in dogs are:
- 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
- The orthopedic issue causes 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 then you may notice constipation occurring more frequently than when they were younger. 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. This makes bringing them to the vet for a complete physical exam and diagnosis very important.
How to Help a Constipated Dog
Google 'How to treat constipation in dogs' and 'What can I give my dog for constipation?' and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.
That said, you will want to know what to do if your dog is constipated. 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:
- 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 the 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.
When Constipation in Dogs is Left 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.
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.