Our Albany vets frequently treat dogs that have been brought to us due to constipation, and while it may not seem like a serious issue, constipation in dogs can be life-threatening. Here we look at why constipation is a serious health concern for our canine companions and what you can do.
Is my dog constipated?
If your pup's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent, your pet is likely suffering from constipation.
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!
If your dog is straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.
In some cases, 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.
Why is my dog constipated?
So what causes constipation in dogs? Well, 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
- Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
- Other illnesses leading to dehydration
- Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
- Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair to collect in the stool)
- 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 anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
- Neurological disorder
- 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.
How can I treat constipation in dogs?
Never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without first consulting your vet. Many human medications are toxic to dogs. The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an examination. How your vet will treat your dog's constipation will depend upon the underlying cause of the condition.
If your dog has eaten something they shouldn't have there is a chance that there is a blockage causing the issue. An abdominal obstruction is a medical emergency that may require urgent surgery.
Blood tests may help reveal that your pooch 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.
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.