Constipation in dogs
Dogs normally pass faeces several times a day. If your dog is constipated the frequency with which they pass faeces will decrease or cease. Constipation has many causes and, particularly in older dogs, is something to monitor carefully. If your dog has been constipated for two days or more, it’s time to seek advice.
Dogs normally pass faeces several times a day. If your dog is constipated the frequency with which they pass faeces will decrease or stop altogether. Constipation has many causes and, particularly in older dogs, is something to monitor carefully. If your dog has been constipated for two days or more, it’s time to seek advice.
Clinical signs of constipation
- Infrequent or lack of stools
- Unproductive straining and posturing to pass stools
- Quiet, loss of appetite and lethargy
- Passing small dry and possibly hard stools
- Blood on the stool
- Swelling around the anus
Causes of constipation
Just like humans, there are a variety of reasons that dogs can become constipated. Some of the most common are: dehydration, not drinking enough water, inappropriate diet, excessive fibre in the diet, lack of exercise, not having sufficient time on a walk to toilet, trauma, intestinal blockage, neurological disease, musculoskeletal disease or diseases affecting other body systems, adverse weather, or pain associated with posturing, for example, arthritis of the hind limbs, or with passing faeces, for example, anal gland impactions. Dietary indiscretion can also cause constipation, including eating bones, stones, pieces of carpet and the other myriad objects that dogs sometimes eat. Male dogs can develop an enlarged prostate which can cause an obstruction, and certain medications can cause also constipation.
How can you help your dog?
- Spotting the problem early: monitor the frequency and consistency of your dog’s stools
- Ensure your dog has regular exercise, which will help the muscles of the intestine and rectum to work properly
- Diet: feed a complete dog food, which will meet all of your dog’s nutritional requirements
- Low residue diets are also available to reduce faecal bulk in the colon
- Increase dietary fibre by adding bran, methylcellulose or psyllium
- It may also help to add laxatives to the food and your vet can advise you on this
If your dog has constipation, then an examination by your vet will help to identify the possible causes and provide the correct treatment. Blood tests and a urinalysis will be done to identify any underlying diseases. Your dog will be checked for signs of arthritis. Xrays, an ultrasound scan or a colonoscopy may be performed to identify the cause and extent of a blockage. Intravenous fluid therapy is often given if your dog is dehydrated. Pain relief will also be given.
Where intervention is necessary to clear the constipation, the faeces may be removed manually or an enema can be administered to soften the stools before removal. For this a general anaesthetic may be required. If the constipation has been caused by a prescription medication, then your vet will also be able to advise whether to discontinue or change the treatment. There are unusual cases where surgical intervention is required, for example, if a foreign object becomes lodged in the intestines. In chronic or recurring cases, for example megacolon, a damaged part of the bowel may need to be surgically removed, known as a partial colectomy.
When to see your vet
- If your dog has been constipated for more than 48 hours
- If your dog often strains to pass stools that are hard and dry
- Diarrhoea, which can quickly lead to dehydration. Read more about diarrhoea in our article.
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