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Constipation in Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

While constipation can sometimes be a simple issue that will resolve itself, other times it may be caused by a serious medical concern that requires emergency intervention. Our Nashua vets talk about the dangers of constipation in dogs and what you should do when it happens.

The Seriousness of Constipation in Dogs

Pain while passing feces or an inability to pass feces is considered a veterinary emergency and can be a sign of a potentially life-threatening health problem such as a bowel obstruction. If your dog is constipated it is important to call your vet as soon as possible in order to pinpoint the underlying cause before the condition becomes more severe.

What are the signs of constipation in dogs?

There are a number of signs of constipation in dogs. Are your dog's bowel movements infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent altogether? If so, your furry friend may be suffering from constipation.

Straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or 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.

What causes constipation in dogs?

If your canine companion has eaten something they shouldn't have there is a chance that their constipation is being caused by an obstruction or blockage. This is a medical emergency that should be diagnosed by a vet as soon as possible and may require urgent surgery to resolve. 

That said, there are other causes of constipation in dogs, including:

  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Illnesses resulting in dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair collected in the stool)
  • A medication side effect
  • An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions itself 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)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to the pelvis

Senior dogs are more prone to bouts of constipation. Nonetheless, any dog that experiences one or more of the scenarios above could develop constipation.

Constipation in Dogs: What to Do About It

Many pet parents wonder how to treat constipation in dogs. The first thing to note is that you should never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your veterinarian! Many human medications are toxic to dogs.

So how do you relieve constipation in dogs? If you believe that your dog is constipated, the best thing you can do for your pup is to contact your vet to book an urgent examination. The treatment for constipation will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog's condition.

Blood tests can be helpful in determining whether your pup has an infection or is suffering from dehydration. Your 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:

  • A prescription diet high in fiber
  • A stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home!)
  • 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

Follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely when treating constipation in dogs, 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 could happen if I don't treat my dog's constipation?

Treating constipation in dogs quickly is vital to their health and recovery. If you do not manage your dog's constipation in a timely manner it can turn serious very quickly. It can result in them experiencing a condition known as constipation where their colon is unable to empty on its own. The colon then becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite and potentially vomiting.

If your dog has swallowed an object that they shouldn't have then it may result in an intestinal blockage which is fatal for many dogs.

It is important to always treat constipation with some urgency in order to best protect your dog's health. You should reach out to your vet or nearest emergency clinic at the first signs of concern.

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.

Constipation can cause serious health concerns that may require immediate care. Contact Animal Medical Center of New England if your dog is in need of emergency care.

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Animal Medical Center of New England welcomes emergency walk-ins and appointments when your pet needs us most. Our team of specialists is also accepting referrals from primary care veterinarians - fill out a referral form to get started.

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