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Constipation in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatment Options

Constipation in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatment Options

Constipation is one of the most common digestive problems our vets in Everett diagnose in dogs. While it may not seem like a serious issue, constipation can become life-threatening for your dog depending on the cause. Here's why.

What is constipation in dogs?

If your pooch has been having bowel movements that are infrequent, difficult to pass or absent altogether, he or she is probably suffering from constipation. 

Pet parents need to know that your dog's inability to pass feces or pain when passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and will need emergency attention. 

If your pup appears to be straining when trying to pass stool and/or produces hard, dry stools, these are also signs that your dog should be examined by a vet right away. 

In some cases, dogs might pass mucus when attempting to defecate, scoot along the ground, squat frequently without defecating or circle excessively. If you press on their lower back or stomach, their abdomen may feel tense or painful, causing them to cry or growl. 

What causes constipation in dogs?

There are several potential causes of constipation in dogs. Some of the most common are:

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

Pets who have reached their geriatric years may suffer from constipation more frequently. That said, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios listed above can experience constipation.

What are common dog constipation symptoms?

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 it’s important that your vet perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.

What can I give my dog for constipation?

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” 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:

  • Small bowl of goat or cow milk 
  • Stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin or products such as Metamucil) 
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
  • 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.

What can happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?

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 office right away to schedule an appointment with one of our vets. 

New Patients Always Welcome!

Looking for a vet in Everett? Whether your pet needs routine wellness exams, surgery, geriatric care or emergency care, we look forward to welcoming you to our family at Broadway Animal Hospital located in Everett. 

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