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Dog Constipation – The Facts

dog constipation

Constipation is something that anyone can encounter, and it’s never comfortable. But not everyone realizes that man’s best friend also suffers from this unfortunate malady. Dogs can get constipation for a variety of reasons, ranging from diet to disease, so it’s important to understand the symptoms of constipation in dogs, and what to do next if a pet dog is suffering from a stuck stool.

What is Dog Constipation?

Like human constipation, dog constipation is when the pup is struggling to defecate; to pass a stool easily and normally because it has become hard and compacted within the lower digestive tract. This can range from infrequent toilet trips to a complete loss of ability to pass solids. It can also range from a problem lasting for one or two days to something more long term. The permanence and the severity of the issue will determine the action and treatment needed.

What Causes Constipation in Dogs?

By far the most common cause of constipation in dogs is ingestion of something they shouldn’t. This can include foreign bodies (like chewed and splintered bones) which literally clog the intestines, too much hair due to over-grooming, or something which irritates the digestive tract causing an unwanted reaction.

Other causes of constipation in dogs include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor diet
  • Prostate issues – neutering a male dog may help reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate
  • A reaction to certain medications
  • Infected anal glands
  • Loss of appetite- this can be a tricky one to parse out because a dog may lose appetite due to constipation, but a loss of appetite due to a different condition could also cause constipation as a side effect.
  • Changes in routine (unable to go outside to defecate when needs to)
  • Joint pain (may be painful for the dog to balance or crouch to defecate)

Constipation in dogs can be a sign of certain serious conditions, so it’s important to get the condition checked out if symptoms don’t improve after a few days. According to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University, constipation can be a symptom of canine hyperthyroidism. Other medical causes of constipation include bladder obstructions, urinary tract infections, and colitis. If a veterinarian suspects any of these conditions, they may perform a range of tests on the dog in question to be sure.

Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

A dog that doesn’t pass solids for two days but then passes solids normally and without discomfort is probably fine. However, the advice from veterinarians is that if a dog has not defecated for over this 48 hour period, a vet should be contacted immediately. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Whining or howling when trying to defecate
  • Crouching for long periods of time with no results
  • Obvious straining when defecating
  • Small amounts of liquid being passed, may contain mucus or blood
  • Vomiting accompanied by a lack of defecation
  • Appetite lost all of a sudden
  • Lethargy- a normally playful dog may become seemingly lazy or sedentary
  • Material stuck or hanging around the anus

Regardless of what these symptoms may mean, dog owners should always contact a veterinarian if they notice any of these signs in their dog. They could be indicative of a more serious condition.

Treating Constipation in Dogs

When it comes to constipation in dogs remedies range from the very simple to more complex ones that a veterinarian may need to advise on. The remedy may be as simple as ensuring the dog has plenty of drinking water, and monitoring them to make sure they’re drinking regularly. They may also need a change in diet to include more fiber to aid in digestion.

Other treatments include laxatives which will be normally prescribed by a veterinarian. A popular choice is a paste which is flavored to taste like meat, making it easy to give to the dog orally. A veterinarian may also suggest adding a mineral oil to the dog’s normal food which helps lubricate the digestive tract.

More severe constipation may require the veterinarian to perform an enema. This is where the colon is flushed out, to help remove the fecal matter. If the stool has become so compacted that it won’t come out in this way, more manual methods may have to be used, including surgery in rare cases.

Constipation Relief for Dogs: What Owners Can Do

Dog owners should remember to provide any dog with plenty of water at all times. Dogs won’t always indicate when they are thirsty, but with water freely available, owners should notice them lapping some up frequently. Without regular water, stools become hard and dry, and painful to pass.

Ensure the dog’s diet is suitable. Some dogs require a specialist diet. Most are fine with a mix of wet and dry food, which should include protein, carbs, and fiber. Dog owners who are unsure should check with their veterinarian about the best foods to feed their dogs.

Does Pumpkin Help Dogs with Constipation?

There are plenty of home treatments for dog constipation which a veterinarian may advise before trying laxatives. One popular home remedy is to add cooked pumpkin to a dog’s diet. Pumpkin is high in fiber, which aids in natural digestive function. Dog owners who use canned pumpkin should ensure there is no added sugar, as this could be harmful to the dog. Fresh pumpkin can be grated and mixed with the dog’s usual food, to help maintain and improve regular defecation. No more than around five tablespoons of pumpkin should be given to a dog per day, to avoid diarrhea.

Most dogs will experience constipation at least once in their lifetime. Owners who know what to look out for can deal with it quickly, ensure their dog is hydrated and has a fiber-rich diet, and when to consult a veterinarian for the best advice.


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