Symptoms of constipation can be uncomfortable for our dogs - and concerning for pup parents. Our Pico Rivera veterinarians share signs of constipation in dogs, the causes, and what to do about constipation in dogs.
Is my dog constipated?
If your pooch’s bowel movements are infrequent, difficult, or absent, he is suffering from one of the most common health problems 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.
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?
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
- A side effect 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 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?
Signs of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, you should see your veterinarian immediately if it’s been more than two days since he has had a bowel movement.
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 complete physical exam to diagnose the cause.
Treating Constipation in Dogs
Google “How to relieve constipation in dogs” or "what can I give my dog for constipation" 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 almost certainly 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:
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- A stool softener or another 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)
- A 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 not treated, he may become unable to empty his colon on his own (a condition called obstipation). The colon is then overburdened with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, resulting in lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite, and possibly vomiting.