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Dog Constipation – Causes, Diagnosis and Treating the Problem

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Constipation in dogs can be defined as the animal’s inability to pass feces that are usually hard or dry. Older dogs are more likely to get constipated compared to younger ones, and it is an issue that can be seen in any breed. 

Constipation is a serious problem, especially if it is left untreated. If your dog hasn’t ‘gone to the bathroom’ for more than a whole day, you should keep an eye on Fido. If it doesn’t happen in a matter of several hours after those 24 hours, take your canine friend to the vet, especially if he or she is older.

In this article, we’ll look at what causes constipation, how it is diagnosed, treated, and even what you can give your dog so that you prevent it or treat it at home. 

What causes constipation in Dogs

There are many things that can make a dog constipated from things they have eaten while you weren’t watching to diseases of the colon. Some of the most common causes are listed below.

  • Fear or anxiety
  • Foreign bodies
  • Hormonal disease
  • Neurologic disease
  • Osteoarthritis (or other painful conditions)
  • Changes in diet
  • Diseases of the colon (including tumors)

Dehydration can be a rather common cause of dog constipation. If your pet doesn’t drink enough water or more than the amount that he/she loses over the course of a day, the stool will become harder and dryer. 

Dogs that tend to chew on and swallow a lot of things that shouldn’t be a part of their diet (from rocks to jewelry) are more exposed to constipation, but a variety of other intestinal problems, too (obstruction or occlusion). Poorly digestible substances can cause even bigger problems – such as a gastrointestinal fistula, for example.

How can you tell if your dog is constipated?

A constipated dog will obviously have some difficulty passing stools or will strain while trying to defecate. Male dogs can even develop urinary blockages because they might feel uncomfortable and avoid ‘going to the bathroom’ altogether.

If your pooch is suffering from constipation, you will notice no stools at all, or you’ll see those that he/she does pass are hard, small, or dry. As counterintuitive as it might sound, a constipated dog can pass on liquid stool intermittently. There could be a conglomerate of hard feces blocking the passage of the soft stool. 

A constipated dog doesn’t really feel like eating, partly because there is too much room occupied in his/her abdominal cavity for the animal to have a lot of appetite. Besides, feces that aren’t passed for some time can eliminate toxins and cause a variety of problems, such as decreased activity or depression. Vomiting can occur in dogs, but it’s more common in constipated cats. 

Diagnosis

The vet will perform a physical examination and try to get as much information from you, the pet guardian, as possible. During the physical exam, the vet will most likely feel a solid and firm colon. Conducting a rectal examination is recommended, in this case, as rectal strictures, foreign bodies, tumors, or any other abnormalities have to be ruled out.

In the majority of cases, blood work, an ultrasound, or an X-ray can be necessary. 

How can dog constipation be treated?

Most constipation cases can be treated with ease, especially if there aren’t any other causes (such as a fistula, obstruction or occlusion, some of which might call for surgery). 

Loosening and removing the feces is the primary purpose of the treatment. This can be done by performing an enema, removing the feces manually, using suppositories (although they are rarely effective because many dogs can’t keep them in for long), or administering medication. 

Dogs that have to undergo several enemas have to be hospitalized, also because they should receive fluid therapy, as well. Eventually, you will have to change your dog’s diet so that it addresses this potential issue, but talk to your veterinarian for more information on this. 

There are dogs that can develop constipation on account of a psychogenic cause. If they are stressed because of a change or something in their environment, eliminating the cause might considerably improve the situation. Dogs that are anxious can wear an anxiety vest or be administered medication. 

In terms of the most commonly used drugs to treat constipation in dogs, vets can use lactulose, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or stimulant laxatives such as tegaserod, for example. 

Laxatives for dogs

If your dog has a history of constipation and you don’t want to take him to the vet, you could use one of the alternative solutions listed below to prevent the problem, or you could rely on the following products.

Docusate sodium

Docusate sodium (100mg tablets) is found in Surfak or Colace. This medication is more or less safe to be used on dogs, but it can cause diarrhea if the dosage is too high. 

The typical dosage is 25 to 100mg orally depending on the size of the dog. Start with the lowest doses possible and give your dog strained soup and canned pumpkin or wet food instead of kibble. If 24 hours go by, and he/she still hasn’t passed any stool, you should take your canine buddy to the vet.

Canned pumpkin

Pumpkin is the healthiest source of fiber for animals that started out as being carnivores. Dogs can eat and digest other things besides meat, but fiber from corn, soy, or other such grains is a huge no-no as it can cause more harm than good.

Most dogs like the taste of canned pumpkin. You can give your dog up to three tablespoons a day if you suspect that he/she is on the verge of becoming constipated. 

Psyllium

Psyllium husk powder can be bought anywhere, both online and offline, but it’s mostly found in pharmacies and grocery stores. There is an unsweetened version that can be given to dogs, and it is called Metamucil. Depending on your dog’s weight, you can give your dog up to 3 tablespoons a day. 

Alternative solutions

Increasing fluid intake is one of the best and most important measures that you can take to prevent constipation. If your dog doesn’t seem to be a big fan of water, you can increase fluid intake by giving him/her bone broth or strained vegetable or chicken soup instead of plain water. 

Canned food is far better than dry kibble. Dogs used to be wild animals, and their prey didn’t look like kibble at all – flesh contains a lot of water. So if your dog doesn’t have anything against it, you can add water to your dog’s dry food. 

Ideally, your dog should always feel comfortable when trying to tend to his/her business. Most dogs don’t feel great being cooped up indoors for long periods of time, and they might not be able to ‘do it on command’ when you do go out and walk them in the morning or in the evening. Dogs that have access to a yard are less prone to constipation.

Increasing exercise has been shown to be another good way of preventing constipation, and it works for adults, too. Sedentary lifestyles can exacerbate the problem. Taking your dog on long walks or adopting two dogs so that they can play with each other in the yard can be the right way of going about things.

Walking your dog for at least 45 minutes to an hour every day is healthy both for your canine friend and yourself. 

Last, but not least, remember to seek veterinary care if your dog is not eating, vomiting, or feeling distressed or if he/she has been constipated for more than 24 hours. Get veterinary assistance also if you have tried home remedies, and they haven’t worked.

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