If your dog is experiencing the symptoms of constipation it is not only extremely uncomfortable for them but also stressful for any pet parent. Our St. Louis emergency vets discuss the causes and symptoms of constipation in dogs and how it can be treated.
Constipation in Dogs
If you have noticed that your beloved canine companion is no longer having bowel movements as normal there is a chance that they may be suffering from one of the most common health problems seen in pets’ digestive systems - constipation.
Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.
Straining while attempting to defecate is also one of the most common signs that your dog may be experiencing 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.
The Main Causes of Constipation in Dogs
Here are some of the most common reasons for constipation in dogs:
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illness leading to dehydration
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (may cause large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
- Neurological disorder
- Side effect 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 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 that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.
The Common Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs
Along with straining while attempting to defecate, your dog may also be expressing their pain or discomfort vocally. If it has been two days or longer since your dog was last able to have a bowel movement then immediate contact with your vet will be necessary.
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.
Treatment For Constipation in Dogs
The best course of action for a dog that is expected to be suffering from constipation is to contact your vet and have them examined as soon as possible. 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 laxative
- More exercise
- Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be 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 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.
Repercussions of Untreated Constipation in Dogs
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.