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Constipation In Dogs: Causes, Signs And Treatment

Constipation In Dogs: Causes, Signs And Treatment

Symptoms of constipation in our dogs can be worrying to witness, and extremely uncomfortable for the dogs themselves. Today, our Mechanicsburg emergency vets share signs of constipation in dogs, causes and tips for treating the condition.

Constipation In Dogs

If your dog's bowel movements have been harder to pass for them, or if they're defecating infrequently (or not at all) they are suffering from one of the most common health problems seen in pets’ digestive systems - constipation.

Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care. 

If your dog strains or struggles when they try to poop, and/or are producing hard, dry stools, these are also classic signs.

Some dogs may also pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat often. If you gently palpate (feel along) their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or yelp. If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, they may eventually be 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.

Causes Of Constipation In Dogs

There may be many factors contributing to your dog’s constipation:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Other illnesses causing dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Medication side effect
  • Orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog squats to defecate
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Sudden change in diet or trying new foods
  • Matted hair around the dog's anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Obstruction because of tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Pelvis trauma

Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.

Symptoms Of Constipation In Dogs

Signs of constipation include straining, crying or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if it’s been more than two days since they've 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.

Treating Constipation In Dogs

The best thing to do is get in touch with your veterinarian to schedule an examination for your dog. The vet will likely take a medical history, carry out diagnostic tests (e.g. bloodwork) to identify infection or dehydration, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • A prescription high-fiber diet 
  • Stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional)
  • 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

It's important to follow your vet’s instructions closely! Trying too many of these or the wrong combination of things could trigger the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.

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 showing symptoms of constipation? Visit our Mechanicsburg trauma and emergency animal hospital to receive urgent care for your dog. Our emergency vets are here whenever your pet needs us.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center you never need an appointment to access our full complement of emergency services. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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Contact (717) 796-2334