Signs of constipation in dogs and what to look out for are similar to that of humans and basically, our preventive measures and treatment work just perfectly here, even though there might be some slight variations.
Constipation! Whew! One must need a lot of energy to push those words out, figuratively. In my judgment, preventing constipation is much easier than going through the ordeal, but sometimes life gets in the way, gets carried along with it, and we forget to pause and drink enough water.
When our furry friends are constipated, we might have certain questions such as; So what to do if my dog is constipated? Why can’t my dog can’t poop?
Let’s delve in together.
An Overview of Dog Constipation
Constipation is when your dog has difficulty defecating, has an infrequent passage of stools or there is an absence of stool for a particular number of days. Most of the time, constipation is temporary but it is very uncomfortable.
Constipation happens in every breed of dog and the size of the dog does not matter here. So, in summary, constipation occurs and can happen in every type of dog. Usually, elderly pets are more susceptible to constipation even though it can affect other dogs. This is because of not having enough electrolytes or having a kidney problem, which is common in older dogs.
When food is digested, the undigested waste material goes through the colon where excess water is absorbed from it into the body. Thus, the longer the waste material stays in the colon, the more water is absorbed, especially if the dog is dehydrated. This makes the feces hard and dry and difficult to pass during defecation.
Signs of Constipation in Dogs
Dog constipation symptoms are easy to detect because most dogs pass stools at least once a day. How frequently they poop depends on the number of times they are fed in a day or the quantity of food provided. If this is not happening, take a look at these signs to determine whether your dog is constipated
Signs of constipation in dogs include:
- Straining, whining, and crouching when defecating
- Attempt to defecate several times without any success
- Passing hard, dry feces
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Hair around the dog’s anal region may be tangled with feces
- Scooting, frequent squatting and circling in an attempt to defecate
- Your dog hasn’t pooped for two days or more
- Painful abdomen when touched around the stomach or lower back
- There may be some small fluid or blood when they defecate due to the excessive straining
- Small amounts of watery or feces with mucus, often mistaken for diarrhea
Why is My Dog Constipated?
If you have a constipated dog, the main question to ask is, ‘why is my dog constipated?’
Constipation can result from multiple factors which signify an underlying disease condition. Causes of constipation can be broadly divided into three main blocks:
- Blockages in the colon (intraluminal factor)
- Diseases and injuries (extraluminal factor)
- Obstructions outside and around the colon (intrinsic factors)
The leading causes of constipation in dogs are:
- Your dog is dehydrated either by not drinking a sufficient amount of water or passing out water more than the body desires, or due to certain diseases.
- The diet of your dog does not contain enough fiber or has too much fiber.
- Your dog eating indigestible materials like grass, toys, rocks or gravel, dirt, garbage, or even fabrics.
- Your dog has an abscess in/around their anal sacs, enlarged anal sacs, or the sacs have a blocked opening.
- Your dog might have a disease in/around the colon.
- Your dog does not get enough daily exercise or is living a sedentary lifestyle.
- Your dog is being fed new foods or a sudden change in diet.
- Your dog might have ingested its hair due to excessive overgrooming.
- Your dog might have taken a drug whose side effect is constipation.
- Your dog has an enlarged prostate.
- Your dog might have an injury to its pelvis.
- Your dog has a mass or tumor or tangled hair around the anal region.
- Your dog might have a hormonal disease such as hyperparathyroidism or hypothyroidism.
- Your dog might have a tumor or mass in the rectum or anus, causing an obstruction.
- Your dog has issues with bone pain or osteoarthritis, making it uncomfortable or painful anytime it tries to defecate.
- Sometimes, your dog might be anxious, fearful, nervous, or stressed, affecting bowel movements.
- Your dog might have a neurological disorder.
- Your dog might be elderly.
- Your dog might have kidney disease.
- Your dog might have a hernia which could cause obstruction.
Diagnosis of constipation
To diagnose and rule out certain conditions, your vet will request abdominal x-rays, ultrasounds, and laboratory tests.
Laboratory tests in the form of blood tests and urine analysis will be done to determine levels of dehydration or if there is an infection present. In addition, physical exams (rectal exams) would be conducted to determine if there is a narrowing of the anus (known as rectal stricture), presence of abscess or tumors, or any foreign body.
An x-ray is done to determine the extent of constipation. An ultrasound is done to determine any enlargement in any organ or observe any abnormalities in the function of the abdominal organs. A neurological test would be done to rule out any issues with the central nervous system.
What to Give a Dog for Constipation
What do you give a dog for constipation, now that constipation has happened? Treatment for dog constipation depends on the causative issue. However, the first step is to remove the hardened fecal matter in the colon or rectum. This is done by removing it manually or by the use of enemas.
Your dog would also be prescribed laxatives tailored specifically for dogs, either lactulose, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or a stimulant laxative for dogs. Always check with your veterinarian before you give any dose to your dog. Also, medications to increase and improve the large intestine’s strength would be given.
Your veterinarian would advise you to increase your dog’s daily exercise, increase/decrease the fiber in your dog’s diet, prescribe a high fiber diet, and give your dog a small bowl of cow or goat milk. At the extreme, your vet might suggest surgery, if necessary, in the case of a foreign body or a tumor, to give enzyme blocking and nerve stimulating medications.
The underlying disease, however, needs to be treated. Fluids can be given to severely dehydrated dogs. Probiotics can be given after constipation has ceased.
Safe Home Remedies for Dog Constipation
What to do if your dog is constipated? There are many home remedies for constipation because most cases of constipation can be treated at home, but you should speak to your vet first, usually to rule out any underlying disease
Safe home remedies include:
Bran cereal, e.g., wheat bran
These foods contain high insoluble fiber, which means they remain unchanged even in the digestive process. In addition, they make stools heavy and softer; thus, they are suitable for constipated dogs.
Canned pumpkin or pumpkin powder
This is relatively one of the most common home remedies for constipation. Pumpkin is safe for dogs and can be mixed with their food or fed to them directly. In addition, it contains a high amount of fiber, which is good for relieving constipation without any underlying conditions.
Canned dog food or wet dog food
This contains more water than dried dog food, and it helps to provide extra moisture in the food and the feces, making it easier to pass stools.
We all know how important water is for the easy passage of stools. Giving your dog extra water will allow it to overcome its constipation.
Exercise can help improve the popping habits of dogs. Activities such as longer walks or extended playtime have been beneficial to constipated dogs.
Metamucil or other related products
Metamucil is a bulk-forming fiber supplement that increases the bulk of your dog’s stool, retains water in the stool, and makes it softer and easy to pass.
Herbs and oils such as ginger and olive oils
Ginger and other herbs help the body digest food better and support bowel function and movement. On the other hand, Olive oil uses its fat content to smooth the insides of the colon, making stools easier to pass. It can also enable the stool to hold more water, serving as a stool softener for dogs.
Manually remove the hair around the anal region
Dogs with tangled hair around the anal region may have blockage due to the hair, and you can help relieve this by cutting it off. To prevent any pain, soak the hairs of the anal region or bathe your dog to make the grooming less stressful and painful. If you are scared, you might cut your dog, take it to a groomer or a vet.
Remember to take your dog to the vet immediately if none of the home remedies work.
What is the Expected Outcome for Canine Constipation?
The outcome of your dog’s constipation is based on the exact cause of constipation. Under the face of no underlying disease or complaint, most dogs have a speedy recovery when treatment is started. The expected outcome (prognosis) is good for those with underlying diseases when the underlying disease condition is being treated.
Complications from constipation
If constipation goes on for a long time without any intervention, it becomes a condition known as obstipation. The colon of your dog becomes filled with a large number of feces which causes weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, and lots of straining without an attempt.
Also, prolonged constipation can lead to a condition known as
Megacolon can be a cause of constipation and a consequence of constipation. The colon, filled with feces becomes enlarged and weak and loses or reduces its ability to contract to bring waste out.
How to Prevent a Dog Not Pooping
To prevent a dog from popping, always keep an eye on your dog to notice when it eats something unfamiliar, passes out lots of urine, or does not take adequate water. If your dog has already been constipated once, you might want to feed a special diet known as a therapeutic diet. For those that haven’t been exposed, it is essential to regulate the amount of fiber in the diet.
Prevent your dog from eating indigestible items, which can cause obstruction. Also allow your dog to have multiple opportunities to defecate to prevent it from keeping in feces for a long time.
Constipation is not pleasant for everyone, and care should be taken not to subject these wonderful animals to pain and misery. Follow the advice of your vet during treatment to prevent trading your dog’s constipation for diarrhea. Always ensure there is adequate fiber and lots of drinking water.
Prevention of constipation is absolutely better than treating it.
Akosua is a Veterinary Medical Student at the University of Ghana. She likes writing during her free time and sharing her knowledge about veterinary medicine (she found the perfect combo here 🙂 ). Her passion is to inspire Veterinary professionals and change the perspective of animal love in developing countries through her work and writing.