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Constipation in Dogs: Causes & What to Do

Symptoms of constipation can be uncomfortable for our dogs - and concerning for pup parents. Our Hattiesburg vets share signs of constipation in dogs, causes and tips for treating the condition.

What is constipation in dogs?

Are your pup's bowel movements difficult, absent or infrequent? If so, she is suffering from one of the most common health issues diagnosed in pets' digestive systems - constipation. 

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

If she also strains when trying to defecate and/or produces dry, hard stools, these are also hallmark signs that all is not well.  

Some dogs may also circle excessively, scoot along the ground, squat frequently or pass mucus when attempting to defecate. When you press on their lower back or stomach, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to cry or growl. 

Today, our vets will share some information on constipation symptoms, causes and how to help a constipated dog. 

What causes constipation in dogs?

We've received many a call from a concerned pet parent asking, "My dog is constipated. How did this happen, and what can I do?" Keep in mind there may be other factors contributing to your dog's constipation, including:

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

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

What are the 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 he has had a bowel movement, you should see your vet immediately.

Keep in mind that for many dogs, constipation 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 “What to do if your dog is constipated” 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? Contact our Hattiesburg vets before this issue turns into a major health concern.

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The Pet Hospital (Parkway) is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Hattiesburg and Petal. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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