Constipation in Dogs

Constipation in Dogs

While constipation in dogs isn’t as common as it is in cats, it can happen. A dog is constipated when they have difficulty making bowel movements, when feces are dry and hard, or when feces can’t be produced at all. While the problem could be due to something as simple as not having enough fiber in the diet or a lack of water, leaving constipation untreated can actually cause the dog’s large intestine to expand so much that it can no longer function. It’s for this reason that it’s imperative that owners look at their dog’s stools, as well as the dog’s behavior while making bowel movements, so that they can spot a problem as soon as possible and seek treatment for it

Causes of Constipation in Dogs

From minor constipation that can be changed with just a few small adjustments to major problems that need to be looked at immediately, there are many possible causes of constipation. Some of them are:

  • Not enough water. Dehydration is the number one cause of constipation in dogs.
  • Not enough fiber. Just like humans, fiber keeps everything moving smoothly through the digestion system. If dogs don’t get enough fiber, things could slow down, and constipation could ensue.
  • Foreign objects. If swallowed, these can obstruct the bowel and make it impossible for stool to pass. These foreign objects can be any item that is not food such as fabric, rocks, and even large bones.
  • Obstruction of the intestine. When the intestine is blocked it can also make it impossible for your dog to move their bowels. This type of obstruction could be caused by intestinal tumors.
  • Neuromuscular disorders. If the colon muscles or the nerves have been injured or damaged, a neuromuscular disorder could develop, which could in turn cause constipation.
  • Excessive self-grooming. If a dog cleans themselves too much, they could ingest large amounts of hair that could get lodged in their digestion system and cause obstructions.
  • Injury or infection. If your dog suffers an injury to their hip or pelvic area, or their anal glands become infected, that could cause them pain during bowel movements, making them reluctant to try.
  • If your dog is on any kind of medication at all, constipation may be a side effect of it. Also, if iron supplements are being taken, those could also cause constipation.
  • After effects of surgery. If your dog has had surgery to any part of their body, it could be causing them stress and pain which, for a number of reasons, could cause them to become constipated.
  • Simply put, if a dog becomes stressed or upset, especially if it’s for long periods of time such as when there’s a change in their surroundings or routine, that stress could cause them to become constipated.

Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

So how do you know if your dog is constipated? By watching them before, during, and after defecation and looking for these symptoms:

  • Straining throughout their bowel movement
  • Non-productive defecation attempts, or attempts that only produce feces that are very small and dry
  • Anal discharge, especially after straining to defecate
  • Fecal matter that is discolored or that emits an unusual, strong odor
  • Whimpering or crying during defecation due to pain
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Change in mood, depression, lethargy
  • Scooting around on the ground or floor in order to scratch or ease the pain of a painful bottom
  • Loss of appetite
  • In some dogs the abdomen can become bloated when the dog is constipated. You can determine if this is the case by petting your dog gently in this area and seeing if the area is sensitive.

Treatment for Constipation in Dogs

Once you’ve pinpointed the cause of your dog’s constipation, you can begin to treat it. The treatment options for constipation in dogs range from minor, such as providing your dog with more water, to more serious, such as needing to have surgery performed. Once you’ve determined your dog’s constipated, start by trying to wait it out for a day or two. Often it will clear up and you may not need to take them to a vet.

  • If you think your dog may be dehydrated, simply provide them with more water. Keep in mind that high-energy dogs that are very active need more water than others, and lots of water needs to be provided on warm days, or in very warm areas.
  • Provide a nutritious, well-balanced diet. You need to make sure you’re providing your dog with a diet that’s balanced and appropriate for their breed. Wet food in addition to dry kibble can also help keep dogs hydrated and healthier.
  • If there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason for the constipation, you might want to try giving your dog more fiber. Speak to your vet about psyllium husk powder, dark leafy green veggies that have been ground to a powder, coconut fiber, and canned pumpkin to provide additional fiber.
  • If you believe your dog has ingested a foreign object, take them to the vet immediately to have it removed. If you know that your dog likes specific non-food foreign objects, keep them in an area away from your dog, and that they cannot access.
  • If you have noticed that your dog has been self-grooming excessively and you think that might be the cause of the constipation, speak to your vet about a protective cone that will prevent them from doing so in the future.
  • If you’re still unsure of why your dog is constipated, and you’ve given it a couple of days to clear up on its own with no favorable results, call your vet. Testing may need to be done to identify the cause of the constipation, and they will be able to recommend further treatment once they’ve identified the cause. That treatment might be minor such as prescribing digestive enzymes and probiotics, or it might be more major than that, such as something that requires surgery.
  • Apple cider vinegar can clear up your dog’s constipation very quickly if the problem is minor, but make sure that you only give your dog organic apple cider vinegar. When giving it to them, give only ¼ teaspoon for every ten pounds of body weight, and simply add it to their food once or twice a day.
  • Even a short walk will help get things moving in your dog’s digestion system and might help them with constipation.

What Not To Do

There are some myths about how to treat your dog’s constipation right from your own home, but they could be very dangerous and should never be attempted unless a holistic veterinarian has specifically instructed you to do so. Some of these things are:

  • Giving them laxatives that are not meant for dogs. Medications made for humans are very different than those made for dogs and giving your pet human medication could be very dangerous for them. Simply don’t do it.
  • High fiber “people food”. Again, food that is consumed by humans shouldn’t be eaten by pets, unless a veterinarian has recommended a very specific diet in which you cook meals for your dog. The grains that people eat simply aren’t a natural part of a dog’s diet, and they could further exasperate the problem of constipation.
  • Mineral oil. While mineral oil is a known home remedy for constipation in people, it should never be used on dogs. It simply doesn’t work the same way and your dog could breathe it into their lungs, which could result in a very big problem.

Again, constipation in dogs is not very common, but if dogs are going to experience it, it’s likely going to be while they are in their middle age years or older. It’s during this time that the system starts to slow down and dogs experience more problems with digestion. It’s essential to remember that while constipation should clear up by itself within two or three days, if it doesn’t, you need to get your pet to the vet right away to get treatment as soon as possible and prevent further damage.

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