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Is constipation in dogs a big deal?

Constipation in dogs may seem like a minor problem but it can be life-threatening depending on the underlying cause. Below, our Memphis vets and team offer advice on the possible causes of constipation in dogs, and what to do if your dog is constipated.

Dog Constipation

If your pup's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent, your pet is likely 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.

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! Contact your vet right away.

Causes of Constipation in Dogs

There are a number of possible causes of constipation in dogs ranging from minor issues to serious health emergencies. Some of the most common causes of dog constipation include:

  • A sudden change of diet (No gradual transition to new food)
  • 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
  • A side effect of medication
  • Pain when a dog positioning to defecate (sore hips or legs)
  • Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair collected in the stool)
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Obstruction caused by tumors in the anus, or 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.

Signs & Symptoms of Dog Constipation

Signs that your dog may be constipated 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.

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.

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:

  • A prescription diet high in 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.

Potential Complication Due to Constipation in Dogs

Left untreated your dog's constipation could reach the point where your pup becomes unable to empty their colon on their own (a condition called obstipation). At that point, the colon becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite and in some cases 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. 

Is your dog constipated? Contact our Memphis vets right away to book an examination for your canine companion, or visit your nearest after-hours animal emergency hospital.

Constipation is common in older dogs. Older golden retriever looking sad, laying on grass.

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