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Constipation in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & What to Do

Constipation in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & What to Do

Constipation can cause discomfort for our dogs - and lead us to become concerned. In this post, our Brentwood vets discuss signs of constipation in dogs, along with causes, tips, and treatment options for the condition. 

What is constipation in dogs?

If your pooch's bowel movements have been absent, infrequent, or difficult, he may be experiencing a common health problem we often see in pets' digestive systems - constipation. 

Some dogs that are constipated will feel pain associated with passing feces or will be unable to pass feces altogether. This is a veterinary emergency that requires immediate care. 

If your canine companion also strains when attempting to defecate or produces dry, hard stools, these are also common symptoms. You may notice your dog circle excessively, squat, or pass mucus when trying to defecate. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may growl or cry due to their abdomen being tense or painful. 

In this post, we'll explore the signs and causes of this condition, and share some advice for treating constipation in dogs. 

What are the signs of constipation in dogs?

Symptoms of constipation include crouching, crying, or straining when trying to defecate. Also, if it's been more than two days since your pup has had a bowel movement, you should see your vet or take your dog to an emergency animal hospital right away. 

Remember that these symptoms may be similar to those that could indicate a urinary tract issue, so it's important that your vet conduct a full physical exam to diagnose the cause of the problem. 

What causes constipation in dogs? 

Many factors can contribute to a dog's constipation, including: 

  • Abscessed or blocked anal sacs
  • Lack of exercise
  • Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Excessive or insufficient amount of fiber in her diet
  • Neurological disorder
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Side effects of medication
  • Ingested pieces of plants, dirt, bones, and toys caught in the intestinal tract
  • Other illness leading to dehydration
  • Sudden change to new food, or additions to 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 happen more often in senior pets. However, any dog facing one or more of the scenarios listed above can suffer from constipation.

How is constipation in dogs treated?

Many pet owners have come to us wondering how to treat constipation in dogs. A Google search on the topic often reveals wide-ranging advice, from both trustworthy and dubious sources. 

The best thing to do is check in with your veterinarian and schedule an exam for your dog. Your vet may perform a rectal exam to rule out abnormalities or other causes, and conduct blood testing to help identify whether dehydration or an infection could be the culprit. Your dog's medical history will also be taken. One of these treatments may be recommended: 

  • 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 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.

Is milk a good laxative for dogs?

For example, because many dogs are lactose intolerant, some owners claim that milk is a good at-home treatment for dog constipation, as it acts as a laxative. However, milk can cause digestive upset and diarrhea, and is not recommended as a remedy for constipation, since it can cause further health problems.

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.

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.

Do you have questions about how to relieve constipation in dogs? Contact our Brentwood vets to book an appointment today for your four-legged friend.

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