Just like us, dogs can experience tummy troubles which can lead to concerns in their bowels and intestines that can become concerning if not managed quickly. Our St. Louis vets discuss constipation in dogs, the signs of this intestinal concern and what you should do if your dog is constipated.
How Does a Dog Become Constipated?
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.
Hard, dry stools or just straining to pass feces, in general, are all typical signs of this common concern.
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 are the common causes of 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 the pelvis
We most commonly see constipation in dogs that are aging but if you have a younger dog that is suffering from any of the above concerns they may also experience constipation.
What are the dog constipation symptoms you may see?
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, so your vet must perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.
How can you help a constipated dog?
Any pet parent dealing with a dog that can't poop wonders the same thing - 'how can I help my dog?'.
The first thing you should do is schedule an examination for your dog with the vet to determine the underlying cause of constipation. 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
You should never try any of these solutions unless under the care of a veterinarian as these can lead to a different condition that you may be aware of, 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 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 you don't treat constipation in dogs?
Obstipation is what we call it if the constipation is left untreated and your dog can no longer pass feces on their own. At this point your dog will be dealing with an obstruction as the colon then becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite and potentially vomiting and more serious potentially fatal issues if continued to be left untreated.
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.