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Constipation in Dogs: Common Causes & What to Do

In our canine companions, constipation may seem like a minor issue, but can actually be life-threatening depending on its cause. Here, our Hermitage veterinary team offers advice on what to do if your dog is constipated.

Is your dog constipated?

If your pup's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent, your pet is likely suffering from constipation.

Straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or is producing hard, dry stools, are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.

Constipated dogs may pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently without defecating. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry out.

It's critical for pet parents to understand that constipation or pain associated with passing stool is considered a veterinary emergency in dogs and requires immediate care. 

Causes of Constipation in Dogs

There are a number of possible causes of constipation in dogs, some of the most common include:

  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Lack of exercise
  • A side effect of medication
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Other illnesses leading to dehydration
  • Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Trauma to pelvis
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate

Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.

Dog Constipation Symptoms

The signs of constipation can include crying, straining or crouching while attempting to defecate. Also, if it has been more than two days since your pooch 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 Help a Constipated Dog

Google “What can I give my dog for constipation” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.

Never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your vet first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.

The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. The treatment for your dog's constipation will depend upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.

If your pooch has eaten something they shouldn't have there is a chance that there is a blockage causing the issue. This is a medical emergency that will likely require urgent surgery.

Blood tests may help reveal that your pup has an infection or is suffering from 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 with fiber
  • Stool softener or another 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.

Potential Complication Due to Constipation in Dogs

If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, they could reach the point where they become unable to empty their colon on their 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.

If your dog is showing signs of constipation contact our Hermitage vets right away to book an examination for your pup.

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