When your dog is having a hard time using the bathroom it can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms and if left untreated, may lead to serious complications. Our Picayune vets discuss the dangers of constipation, the symptoms to watch for and what to do if your dog is experiencing this condition.
What is constipation and how does it happen?
If you notice that your dog is straining and audibly uncomfortable when trying to defecate, they could be experiencing a condition known as constipation.
Constipation is the inability to have a bowel movement and is considered a veterinary medical emergency. If your dog is constipated you will need to seek veterinary care right away to avoid serious complications.
Although your dog likely will be unable to pass feces, if they do the stool will be hard and dry.
Some dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently. Any pressure put on their abdomen will likely result in a great deal of pain and your dog may howl or cry.
What are the causes of constipation in dogs?
There are a number of different factors that can contribute to the occurrence of constipation in dogs such as:
- 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 pelvis
While constipation can be more common in geriatric dogs, it can affect dogs of any age.
How will my dog behave if they are constipated?
If your dog is suffering from constipation they may yelp or howl when trying to pass stool. If more than two days have passed since your dog's last bowel movement you will need to contact your primary veterinarian or nearest emergency vet clinic in Picayune right away for an examination.
Keep in mind that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, which makes a visit to the vet for diagnostics very important.
What are the treatment options for constipation in dogs?
While Google may be the first place you look for information on treating a dog with constipation, it is important to think critically about what you read as not all of it is trustworthy.
Bringing your dog in for an examination is always the best choice when there is a medical concern. Your vet will perform diagnostics such as bloodwork to learn the cause such as dehydration or potential infection. They will also perform a complete examination including a rectal exam and discuss your pet's medical history with you. Once they have come to a conclusion on the cause they will recommend treatment. This can include treatments such as:
- A prescription diet high in fiber
- A 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 always treat your dog according to the vet's instructions. If you overcorrect the issue you could wind up with a dog that has diarrhea. This would not be a good trade.
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 you do at home to get your dog's bowels moving?
There are many ways that you can soften your dog's stool and get them to have bowel movements again, but any solution should be discussed with your vet first to ensure the health and safety of your pup.
Here are some of the options for those moments you ask 'What can I give my dog for constipation?':
- Pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree contains both fiber and moisture which can help get things moving along again. Just be sure to find 100% pure pumpkin puree.
- Canned dog food. Canned dog food is high in moisture which can help to soften their stool. Be sure to mix it with their regular food to avoid any other issues.
- Dietary fiber supplements. A simple way of jumpstarting the digestive tract is with the introduction of more fiber. This can be done using supplements. You will need to speak with your vet before giving your dog any supplements.
- Fresh water. Drinking lots of water can help soften your dog's stools but if they won't drink at all then you should bring them to a vet right away.
- Exercise. Taking your dog out for a long walk or run or even playing a game can help get everything moving again.
What happens if constipation is left untreated?
If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, he may eventually be unable to empty his colon on his 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.
When is constipation a veterinary emergency?
You should always monitor the frequency of your dog's bowel movements along with checking on the appearance of the stools. If your dog shows signs of constipation then you should increase their water and fiber intake right away or try one of the other remedies listed above. If the constipation is still apparent after two days or if they are showing signs of serious pain or other concerning symptoms then you should bring them to our Picayune animal clinic for a veterinary exam as soon as possible.
In order to help your vet accurately diagnose your pet's condition you will want to offer them some key information such as:
- The frequency that your dog has been having bowel movements
- The appearance of the stools
- Any changes in your dog's life or diet
- Anything that your dog may have eaten (including non-edible objects)
- Medications that your dog is taking
- Any injuries that your dog has sustained
- symptoms they are experiencing such as pain and straining
- Signs of distress or discomfort, especially vomiting, lethargy, or bloating
Along with a physical exam, your vet may also perform diagnostic testing to help diagnose the cause of your dog's constipation and to create a plan to properly treat their condition.
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.