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Dog Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Dog Constipation: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

It happens (or doesn't happen) ... constipation. When your dog is constipated, he can’t properly empty his bowels. It's a common issue that your dog will likely experience at least once in his lifetime. There are many reasons your dog may be constipated, and most of the time there's a simple fix. 

Read on to learn:

What causes dog constipation?

When your dog digests his food, waste (which is full of water and electrolytes) is pushed through the intestines to the colon. The colon absorbs the water and the waste is passed through the stool (poop).

Sometimes, though, this process (an automatic muscular motion called peristaltic waves) malfunctions, leaving your pet unable to pass stool. 

There are many causes of constipation, such as:

  • Age
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet, or one lacking in fibre
  • Medications such as narcotic pain relievers, sucralfate, antihistamines, some antacids, certain cancer drugs, and diuretics
  • Dehydration
  • Intestinal blockage caused by eating bones ,rocks and stones, garbage or foliage
  • Excessive self-grooming (can cause fur or hair to build up in the stool and cause a blockage)

Some medical issues that can cause constipation include:

  • Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism (or other hormone disease)
  • Renal (kidney) issues
  • Enlarged prostate or colon
  • Colon disease
  • Anal gland issues
  • Neurologic diseases
  • Spinal or pelvis injury or trauma
  • Surgery (and drugs associated with surgical procedures)
  • Tumors (or masses) near the colon or rectum
  • Stress, fear and anxiety
  • Pain caused by osteoarthritis can make it uncomfortable to pass stool

 

What are the symptoms of canine constipation?

If you notice your dog has not evacuated his bowels for a couple of days, he may be constipated. Other symptoms your dog may be constipated include:

  • Hard, pellet-like stool (like bunny poop)
  • Straining without producing much (if any) stool
  • Pain or discomfort when trying to defecate (aka dyschezia
  • Blood in the stool

Some dogs may become dehydrated. Others may pass small amounts of liquid stool mixed with blood (called tenesmus). It’s easy to mistake tenesmus for diarrhea, so be wary. 

Is constipation dangerous?

Minor constipation is typically harmless and will often resolve on its own. But, prolonged periods of constipation can be cause for concern.

When your pet is unable to evacuate his bowels, the stool can become dry, hard and compacted, making it nearly impossible for him to defecate. It’s called obstipation, and it can be dangerous. Obstipation may be associated with a serious medical condition. 

Obstipation can lead to a condition called megacolon, whereby the colon becomes enlarged. This can cause bloating, loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy

In severe cases of constipation, some dogs will require surgery, while others may need to have the stool removed manually. This procedure is called de-obstipation, which requires your dog to be anesthetized. Unfortunately, with anesthesia comes greater health risks and a hefty bill. 

How to treat your dog’s constipation at home

If your dog is showing signs of constipation, talk to your vet to rule out any potentially serious issues. Once you’re confident you’re dealing with a minor bout of constipation, there are some things you can feed your pup to give him relief:

  • Feed canned pumpkin or pumpkin chews (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • Sprinkle some bran buds on his dog food
  • Add Metamucil (or similar fibre-rich product) to his food
  • Temporarily replace kibble with canned dog food (to increase water intake)
  • Up his exercise routine
  • Refresh his regular drinking water frequently to make it more enticing
  • Offer flavoured water with some bone or beef broth to encourage him to drink more 

What other treatments are there for canine constipation?

Some dogs experience chronic constipation, which means it happens repeatedly. If that’s the case, your vet may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Low-residue diet containing highly digestible, low-fibre foods
  • Laxatives, enzyme blocking or nerve-stimulating medications
  • Manual removal of impacted fecal matter from the colon
  • Enemas (only to be given by your vet)
  • Surgery

How can I prevent my dog from becoming constipated?

While there may not be a sure-fire way to prevent it, there certainly are some proactive measures you can take to prevent your dog from becoming constipated:

  • Be sure your pup is drinking plenty of water
  • Feed a raw diet whenever possible
  • Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise
  • Supplement your dog’s food with a healthy digestive formula

Pet parents also read …

How to Feed a Raw Diet (video series) 

Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs (+ Tasty Tart Recipe!)

Diarrhea in Dogs & Cats: Causes, Treatment & Prevention