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Constipation in Dogs: Why is My Dog Constipated & What to Do

Constipation in Dogs: Why is My Dog Constipated & What to Do

Dogs of any breed, size, age or lifestyle can become constipated. Constipation is one of the most common digestive issues we see in pets. Here, our Scottsdale vets explain what you should do if you think your dog may be constipated.

What is constipation in dogs?

If your pup has infrequent bowel movements, or these movements are difficult or non-existent, she is suffering from one of the most common health issues seen in pets' digestive systems - constipation. 

Pain associated with passing feces or the inability to do so is considered a veterinary medical emergency and will need immediate care. 

If she also strains when trying to defecate and/or produces dry, hard stools, these are also hallmark signs. 

Some dogs also circle excessively, squat or scoot along the ground, or pass mucus when attempting to defecate. If you press on her stomach or lower back, the abdomen may be tense and painful, which will cause them to cry or growl.

What causes constipation in dogs?

Numerous factors can contribute to a dog's constipation:

  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Lack of exercise  
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in diet 
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods 
  • Orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions herself to defecate
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Side effect of medication
  • Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Enlarged prostate gland 
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to pelvis
  • Other illnesses leading to dehydration

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

What are symptoms of constipation?

Signs of constipation 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 is constipation in dogs treated?

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.

The best thing to do is check in with your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. Blood tests may help reveal infection or 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 in fiber
  • Stool softener or other 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.

Fortunately, we have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed, and an in-house lab and pharmacy that’s stocked with a range of medications and prescription diets, providing us quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.

What can happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?

If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, he may eventually be unable to empty his colon on his 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.

Is your dog showing symptoms of constipation? Visit our Scottsdale animal hospital to receive urgent care for your dog. There are also local after-hours emergency veterinary hospitals.

Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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