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Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

It can be difficult when your beloved furry friend is feeling unwell. Especially when you don't know how to help them feel better. Our Grass Valley vets talk about constipation in dogs, how it happens and what can be done to help treat this condition.

Constipation in Dogs: What is it?

Is your dog crouching lots, straining or crying when you bring them out to use the bathroom? These are all classic signs of constipation.

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

If your dog is suffering from constipation it is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care.

What typically causes constipation in dogs?

Some of the main causes behind constipation in dogs include:

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

As your pup gets older they may begin to experience constipation more frequently. That said, any of the issues above could lead to constipation.

What are the common symptoms associated with constipation?

Signs of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when attempting to defecate. You should contact your vet right away if you notice that your dog hasn't had a bowel movement in 3 days.

Keep in mind 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.

What are the treatment options for constipation in dogs?

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you will likely find a plethora of information that may or may not be accurate.

If your dog is showing signs of constipation then you should contact your vet. They will provide you with the appropriate advice and next steps. Blood tests may be able to determine if your dog is dehydrated or suffering from an internal infection. During the visit the vet will review your dogs 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 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

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 if I don't bring my dog to the vet?

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.

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 may be showing uncomfortable signs of constipation? Contact our Grass Valley vets right away.

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