Just in case last week’s post left you wanting more, we thought we’d take the poop topic a little further.
Did all that poop talk leave you wondering about constipation in dogs? They can definitely be constipated, and the signs there’s a problem are usually subtler than finding a big pile of diarrhea in the yard.
Constipation can lead to big health problems if ignored, and it may mean a serious condition is brewing.
Constipation is infrequent, incomplete, or difficult defecation that results in hard or dry poop. It’s not a disease. It’s really a sign of an underlying problem.
What causes constipation?
Just like in people, constipation can be caused by many different factors. It can happen to anyone and any dog—regardless of age, breed or sex. It is more common in older dogs though.
It can be brought on by:
- Eating a foreign object – bone, hair, stones
- Environmental factors – stress from being boarded or hospitalized
- Pain – anal gland impaction or abscess, arthritic hip or knee
- Obstruction – tumors, hernias, enlarged prostate, hair near anus matted with poop
- Neuromuscular disease – disc disease, spinal deformities in pelvic area
- Metabolic disorders – hypothyroidism, kidney failure
- Medications – pain meds
Because some of these conditions can be very serious, it’s important to talk to your vet if you notice your dog is constipated. Catching a problem early will hopefully result in a better outcome.
What are the signs of constipation?
It can be difficult to differentiate between constipation and other conditions. A constipated dog may be lethargic, dehydrated, vomiting and not want to eat—these are symptoms of many illnesses.
But here are some other things to look for that are more specific to constipation:
- Straining to poop with little or no output
- Hard dry poop
- Infrequent poop
- Swelling around the anus
- Small amount of liquid stool with mucus in it, and maybe some blood
Severe constipation can lead to obstipation, which is when the constipation goes on so long that the poop gets impacted in the colon and can’t be passed.
What is the treatment for constipation?
If your dog gets to the point of obstipation, veterinary intervention is the only solution. Under general anesthesia, the vet will remove the poop manually.
If the dog isn’t too impacted they may be able to get the poop to pass with an enema.
But constipation is usually more easily treated. First, your vet will identify the underlying cause.
Then your vet may suggest:
- Increasing fiber in the diet with a high-fiber food or a supplement
- Feeding a highly digestible, low-residue diet – less stool makes the colon’s job easier
And be sure to increase hydration and activity. Just like in humans, exercise gets the system moving. And water is essential to digestion and the body’s ability to move waste through the “plumbing”.
As with any other unusual behavior in your dog, be sure to act quickly if you think something is wrong. Most health problems are more easily treated if caught early, so call the vet as soon as possible if your dog is showing signs of constipation.
If constipation becomes a recurring problem, talk to your vet about changing your dog’s diet or supplementing with bran, pumpkin or psyllium—natural sources of fiber.
And always feed your dog the highest quality food you can afford, to be sure they are getting a balanced diet for healthy digestion.
Has your dog ever been constipated? Share your experience in the comment section above.