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Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Constipation in dogs is a common issue that can cause discomfort and health problems if not addressed promptly. Understanding the signs, causes, and treatment options is important to keep your furry friend healthy and comfortable.

What is constipation in dogs?

If your dog has trouble with bowel movements, such as infrequent or difficult ones, she may suffer from constipation, a common health issue in pets. If your dog appears to be in pain while passing feces or cannot pass them, it's a veterinary emergency and requires immediate care.

Other symptoms of constipation include straining during defecation, producing dry, hard stools, excessive circling, frequent squatting, scooting, or passing mucus during defecation. Your dog may also appear to have a tense and painful abdomen when you press on its lower back or stomach, which may cause it to cry or growl. This post will explore the causes and signs of constipation in dogs and safe treatment options.

What causes constipation in dogs?

Several factors can contribute to constipation in dogs. Understanding these causes can help in preventing and treating constipation in dogs effectively:

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

Constipation may occur more often in senior pets. However, any dog facing one or more of the scenarios above can suffer constipation. 

What are the signs of constipation in dogs?

Symptoms of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. Also, if it’s been more than two days since his bowel movement, you should see your vet immediately.

Remember that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so your vet must perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.

How is constipation in dogs treated?

When dealing with constipation in dogs, many pet owners are at a loss as to what to do. Google “How to treat constipation in dogs,” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice from trustworthy and dubious sources.

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:

  • A prescription diet high in fiber
  • Stool softener or other laxatives
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a 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 the large intestine’s contractile strength

Your veterinarian can provide accurate advice on relieving constipation in dogs without endangering their health. It's important to closely follow your vet’s instructions for treating constipation in dogs, as trying too many remedies or the wrong combination may lead to the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to exchange one digestive problem for another.

Fortunately, We have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed and a pharmacy stocked with various medications and prescription diets. This provides quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.

Is milk a good laxative for dogs?

While some pet owners believe milk can act as a laxative for dogs, it is not recommended. Most adult dogs are lactose intolerant, and giving them milk can lead to gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea. Instead of using milk, it's better to consider safer and more effective options to relieve constipation in dogs.

Can changing dog food cause constipation?

Changing your dog's food can cause constipation, especially if the transition is abrupt. A sudden change in diet can disrupt your dog's digestive system, leading to constipation or diarrhea. To prevent this, gradually mix the new food with the old food over a week or more. This gradual transition helps your dog's digestive system adjust smoothly.

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

Untreated constipation can lead to your dog being unable to empty her colon on her 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.

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.

Are you worried that your dog is constipated? Contact our New York vets immediately to schedule an examination.

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