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Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Constipation can trigger discomfort for our dogs - and concern in us. Our Baltimore vets list signs of constipation in dogs, as well as causes, tips and treatment options for the condition.

What is constipation in dogs?

Have your pup's bowel movements been absent, infrequent or difficult? She's experiencing one of the most common health issues seen in pets' digestive systems - constipation. 

Pain associated with passing feces or outright Inability to pass feces is classified as a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care. 

If she also strains when trying to defecate or produces dry, har stools, these are also common symptoms. Some dogs may also circle excessively, squat, scoot frequently or pass mucus when trying to defecate. If you press on their lower back or stomach, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to cry or growl. In this post, we'll explore causes and signs of the condition, as well as how to safely treat constipation in dogs. 

What causes constipation in dogs?

Many things can contribute to a dog's constipation:

  • Ingested pieces of plants, dirt, bones and toys caught in the intestinal tract
  • Lack of exercise
  • 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
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Side effect of medication
  • Abscessed or blocked anal sacs
  • Matted hair surrounding 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 that faces one or more of the above scenarios can suffer from 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 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?

When it comes to 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 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:

  • A 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

Your vet can provide accurate advice on how to relieve constipation in dogs without endangering their health. 

Follow your vet’s instructions about treating constipation in dogs 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?

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.

Is your dog showing symptoms of constipation? Contact our Baltimore vets before this issue turns into a major health concern.

Caring for Pets in Baltimore

Falls Road Animal Hospital accepts new clients to our specialty services and 24/7 emergency services.

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Contact (410) 825-9100