My dog is constipated! What should I do?

Our veterinary team at River Oak Veterinary Hospital often see dogs with constipation, which is a digestive issue that could potentially be life-threatening. Here, our Riverbank vets discuss the causes of dog constipation and why it's essential to have it treated early.

Dog Constipation

If your pup's bowel movements are infrequent, difficult for them to pass, or absent, your pet is likely suffering from constipation.

It's critical for you to know that the inability to pass stool or experiencing pain when passing stool is considered a veterinary medical emergency that needs to be treated immediately!

Your dog also has to see a vet as quickly as possible if they are straining when trying to pass feces and/or are passing stools that are hard and dry.

In some situations, dogs might pass mucus when attempting to defecate, scoot along the ground, circle excessively, or frequently squat without defecating. If you press on the lower back or stomach they may have a tense, painful abdomen that makes them cry or growl. 

The Causes of Constipation in Dogs

There are a number of possible causes of constipation in dogs, some of the most common include:

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

Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.

Common Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

Crouching, crying, or straining when attempting to defecate are signs of dog constipation. Also, if your dog hasn't had a bowel movement in more than two days you should take them to the vet immediately.

Remember, these symptoms could be similar to those of a urinary tract problem, so it’s very important for your vet to conduct a complete physical exam so your dog's condition can be diagnosed.

What to Give Your Dog For Constipation

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.

Do not give your dog treatments or medications that are made for humans without asking your vet first. Lots of human medications are toxic to dogs.

The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. The treatment for your dog's constipation will depend upon the underlying cause of your pup's condition.

If your pooch has eaten something they shouldn't have there is a chance that there is a blockage causing the issue. This is a medical emergency that will likely require urgent surgery.

Blood tests may help reveal that your pup has an infection or is suffering from dehydration. The vet 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:

  • A stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • A prescription diet high in fiber
  • Medication to increase large intestine’s contractile strength
  • A small bowl of goat or cow milk
  • Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or products such as Metamucil)
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)

Follow your vet’s instructions closely, as trying too many of these or the wrong combination may bring on the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.

When Dog Constipation Goes Untreated

If your dog’s constipation doesn't get treated it could reach the point where pooch won't be able to empty their colon by themselves (a condition known as obstipation). The colon then gets stuffed with an uncomfortably large amount of stool, leading to lethargy, loss of appetite, unproductive straining, and possibly 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.

Contact our Riverbank vets as quickly as possible if your dog is constipated.