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Constipation in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

Constipation in Dogs: Causes & Treatment

While constipation in your dog may seem like a minor issue, it may be quite serious or even life-threatening depending on the root cause. Here, our Apple Valley veterinary team provides some advice about what to do if your dog is constipated. 

Is your dog constipated?

If your dog is experiencing infrequent bowel movements, their stool is difficult to pass, or is absent altogether, 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 also pass mucus when trying to defecate, may circle repeatedly, scoot along the ground, or squat without defecating at all. If you press onto the stomach or lower back of a constipated dog, they may have a tense abdomen and express some discomfort or pain by growling or crying out.

It's important for pet parents to know that the inability to pass feces or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency 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:

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

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 in dogs may include crying, crouching or visible straining while trying to defecate. Also, if it has been longer than 2 days since your dog has had a bowel movement, you should bring them in to see your veterinarians as soon as possible. 

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.

One of the best things that you can do is contact your veterinarian and have them examine your dog. The treatment for your dog's constipation will ultimately depend on the underlying cause of your pooch's symptoms.

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 also be used to help reveal that your pup is infected or seriously dehydrated. Your vet will likely take your dog's medical history, conduct a rectal examination and compare the two to rule out certain causes or abnormalities that may be causing constipation.

It's likely that they, after examining your pup, will recommend one or a combination of the following treatments. 

  • Extra exercise
  • Stool softener or another laxative
  • Small bowl of goat or cow milk
  • 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)
  • Prescription diet high with fiber
  • 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 may reach a point where they become unable to empty their colon on their own (this is a condition called obstipation). Their colon will then become packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing unproductive strainging,  loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy.

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.

Is your dog showing signs of constipation? Contact Bear Valley Animal Hospital as soon as possible to book an examination for your dog.

Caring for pets in the heart of the Victor Valley.

Bear Valley Animal Hospital welcomes new and existing clients from Hesperia, Victorville, Lucerne Valley, and across the High Desert to our Apple Valley veterinary clinic.

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