Constipation in Dogs
Do you think your dog might be constipated? Is it taking your dog a long time to poop or are they needing to go outside frequently? Wondering if there’s anything you can do at home to help treat or prevent it? Read on to learn more about constipation in dogs!
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Causes of Constipation in Dogs
There are many causes of constipation, but the most likely is that there isn’t enough fiber in your dog’s diet. Every dog has their own unique digestive system including what’s called the “intestinal biome” or “good bacteria” which aid in digestion. As a result, one dog may digest their food differently than another.
Another common issue may simply be that your dog isn’t taking in enough water. Age may be a factor as well - decreased activity can lead to or worsen constipation. Physical activity aids in digestion and when your dog doesn’t pass by the water bowl as often as they once did or have pain related to arthritis, they just don’t drink enough water.
Please note that sometimes a dog can actually have diarrhea that is perceived as constipation by a pet owner. This is because diarrhea, like constipation, may also cause a dog to strain, or have frequent or painful bowel movements with little stool production. Having your dog examined by a vet is important to determine a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.
Signs of Constipation in Dogs
It’s important to monitor your dog’s stools and defecation habits/behaviors on a regular basis. Your dog may or may not give you any clues or show any signs of constipation so it can be difficult to know if anything is going on. You should monitor for:
- Changes in the amount of daily stool (as a rule, dogs normally poop 1-2 times per day)
- Posturing or squatting to defecate for a longer than normal amount of time
- Changes in the appearance of the stool - hard, larger than normal, breaks apart in “balls” of hard stool
- Not eating or drinking normally
- Blood in the stool
- Licking at the rear
- Swelling or redness at the rear
At-Home Prevention and Treatment of Constipation in Dogs
There are several things you can try at home to help alleviate constipation before you need to take your dog to the vet:
- Feed only a complete dog food diet - no treats or “table scraps”
- Exercise your dog or at least getting them moving more
- Increase water intake or feed some of the canned version of the same food (canned food of the same brand and flavor is the same as the dry version except it contains more water).
- Bring the water to your dog or have water bowls placed in different places around the home
- Increase the fiber in the diet by adding some canned pumpkin or green beans to the regular diet. You can talk to your vet about other ways to increase fiber intake such as psyllium powder or methylcellulose.
- A daily probiotic may help keep stools soft
When should I call the vet?
If your dog hasn’t pooped in a few days, is not eating or drinking normally, is becoming lethargic, or seems to have an enlarged or painful abdomen, it’s time for a good exam and possibly, treatment. Your vet may need to take x-rays to see what’s going on in the abdomen and possibly perform some routine lab work (blood, urine) to determine if any underlying issues may have caused constipation.
Your dog may need a good old-fashioned enema or even manual extraction of the hard stool. Depending on the dog’s temperament and comfort, sedation may be necessary. Fluids, either SQ (or under the skin) or in worse cases, IV, may be needed if dehydration is an issue.
If you’re worried about your pet’s health and comfort, it’s always a good idea to contact a vet for advice.
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