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Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

For pup parents, the symptoms of constipation can be uncomfortable. Our Clearlake vets provide signs of constipation in dogs, causes, and tips for treating the condition.

What is constipation in dogs?

One of the most common health problems seen in pets' digestive systems is constipation, if your dog's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult or absent.

If you are experiencing pain or difficulty passing feces, it is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care. 

If he also strains when he tries to urinate or is making hard, dry stools, these are also signs of a problem.

Some dogs may also pass mucus when attempting to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to cry or growl.

What causes constipation in dogs?

There may be many factors contributing to your dog’s constipation:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Other illness leading to dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Side effect of medication
  • Orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself to defecate
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Matted hair surrounding anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to pelvis

Elderly pets may have more trouble moving their bowels. However, any dog who faces one or more of the scenarios above can experience constipation.

What are symptoms of constipation?

Signs of constipation include straining, crying, or crouching when trying to urinate. Furthermore, if it has been more than two days since your dog had a bowel movement, you should see your veterinarian immediately.

Please note that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so it is important that your vet perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.

What can I give my dog for constipation?

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find a lot of advice, from people who are both trustworthy and doubtful.

The best thing to do is to consult with your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. Blood tests can help doctors find out if a person has an infection or is dehydrated. The veterinarian 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:

  • 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

Follow your vet's instructions carefully because too many of these or the wrong combination may cause diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.

Unfortunately, we have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed, and an in-house pharmacy that is stocked with a range of medications and prescription diets, providing us with quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.

What can happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?

If your dog’s constipation goes untreated, he may eventually be unable to empty his colon on his 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? Visit our Clearlake Veterinary Clinic emergency hospital to receive urgent care for your dog. Any time of the day or night, our emergency vets are here whenever your pet needs us.

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Clearlake Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Clearlake companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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