How do i know if my dog is constipated

How do I know if my dog is constipated?

Have you noticed your dog straining or in pain when trying to have a bowel movement? Your canine buddy could be experiencing constipation. Constipation is the infrequent or difficult evacuation of feces, which are typically dry and hard. Affected dogs are unable to void normal stools regularly, which for most dogs, is generally once or twice a day. A chronic and more serious form of constipation is referred to as “obstipation”. In this case, dry fecal matter is usually retained in the dog’s digestive tract for a longer period. The hard feces accumulate and become impacted, and the dog is unable to defecate. Keep reading to learn more!

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Why is my dog constipated?

Once food has been digested and the end products of digestion are absorbed in the small intestine, the waste materials and undigested food proceeds to the large intestine or colon where reabsorption of water and electrolytes occurs.

The passage of food and waste materials through the digestive tract is facilitated by the rhythmic movement of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract called “peristalsis or peristaltic waves”.

If there is something that affects peristalsis, the rate in the movement of fecal material in the colon may speed up (such as during diarrhea) or slow down, which can lead to constipation. When water is reabsorbed in the colon, fecal material becomes hard and dry, making it difficult or even impossible to pass. “Concretion” is a term that is often used by experts to refer to stools that are hard as rocks.

Causes of Constipation in Dogs

There are many causes of constipation in dogs, however, diet is the most significant factor that affects the function of the colon. Veterinarians have classified the causes of dog constipation into three main categories - intraluminal, extraluminal, or intrinsic factors.

Intraluminal Factors

When the cause is intraluminal, it means there is a problem within the colon. This is the most common cause of chronic constipation in dogs. The problem is associated with the inability to pass feces because of a lack of water intake or reluctance to defecate (the dog may have a tumor in the colon or experiences pain when defecating).

Extraluminal Factors

These are factors outside the GI tract that can cause chronic constipation and include conditions that cause the compression of the colon or rectum. Common examples include an enlarged prostate gland, narrowing of the pelvic inlet as a result of a poorly healed pelvic fracture, or the abnormal narrowing of the colon.

Intrinsic Factors

Constipation in dogs may be caused by conditions that affect the digestive system directly, such as with megacolon, or secondary to a primary medical condition like hypothyroidism, hypercalcemia (high levels of calcium in the blood), or lesions in the spinal cord or pelvic nerves.

Some of the most common causes for constipation in dogs include:

1. Abnormalities in the diet - lack of dietary fiber, pica (eating non-food items), sudden change in diet, and certain sources of dietary calcium.

2. Senior dogs appear to be more prone to constipation than their younger counterparts.

3. A lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle tends to slow down fecal transit.

4. Tumors in the digestive tract can block the GI passage.

5. Issues affecting the anal gland, such as an impaction

6. Enlargement of a male dog’s prostate gland

7. Fluid (dehydration) and/or electrolyte imbalances

8. Medications - Such as antihistamines, diuretics, certain cancer drugs, and antacids

9. Hypothyroidism and certain types of metabolic diseases

10. Stress

11. Disorders of the central nervous system

12. Bone and joint problems, such as arthritis

13. Surgery or post-surgical issues

Symptoms of Constipation in Dogs

Most dogs defecate at least once a day. The frequency of bowel movements can be influenced by the number of meals they have each day and how much food they consume. A dog is said to be constipated if the following signs are exhibited:

  • Shows several attempts to pass feces unsuccessfully
  • Scooting or squatting frequently
  • Restless and tends to engage in circling motions excessively
  • Crying out while trying to defecate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • May void small amounts of feces that may contain some water or mucus
  • Weight loss
  • Assume a distinct posture indicating the abdominal pain and discomfort that they are experiencing
  • May whine, cry, or growl if you press his stomach or lower back

Home Remedies for Constipation in Dogs

If you notice that your dog has a difficult time voiding feces, there are a few home remedies that might provide relief and get things moving in the digestive tract. Before trying any of the following home remedies, it is highly recommended that you call your vet for advice. Take note that these treatments can only be given to dogs whose constipation has just started and has not exceeded one to two days.

1. Canned dog food - it contains more moisture than kibble and is more palatable.

2. Powdered fiber supplements - insoluble fiber (i.e. canned pumpkin, psyllium) is fermented in the colon, leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids, which may directly promote contraction of colonic smooth muscle. Over-supplementation with soluble fiber can lead to overly liquid stools (diarrhea) and can also negatively affect nutrient absorption.

3. Pumpkin - It’s high in fiber and moisture and has been used as a dietary fix in dogs with constipation or diarrhea.

4. Encourage your dog to drink more water, making sure that he has easy access to fresh clean water at all times.

5. Foods such as wheat bran, ginger, olive oil, etc. may help

6. Make sure your pet has enough opportunities for physical activity and mental stimulation.

When to Call a Vet if Your Dog is Constipated

If your dog fails to void any feces within 48 hours since the previous defecation, you should call your vet. Constipation can be a red flag indicating some very serious underlying causes.

When your dog suffers from chronic constipation, it can lead to obstipation. In this case, dogs may retain hard, dry fecal matter in their digestive tracts which becomes compacted and the dog cannot defecate at all. Long-term constipation in dogs can eventually pave the way for megacolon which is characterized by the failure of the colon to move feces along because it has become abnormally distended.

How Constipation in Dogs is Diagnosed

Once you have brought your dog to the clinic, your vet will perform a thorough physical exam. A medical history will also be obtained, so be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s diet, activity, symptoms, etc. A rectal exam may be performed to rule out the narrowing of the rectum or the anal opening.

Abdominal x-rays can help determine if there is an obstruction along the GI tract, as well as the extent of constipation. A biopsy may be recommended if there is a mass in the rectum. Blood tests and urinalysis can help determine if dehydration or infection is present.

How will the vet treat my dog’s constipation?

Constipation that has been going on for more than two days warrants prompt veterinary intervention. The treatment regimen may include the following:

  • Administration of laxative suppositories and enemas to loosen the impacted and hardened fecal material.
  • Manual removal of feces that have hardened and accumulated in the colon.
  • Medications that can help activate the normal function of the colon or prevent the body from producing certain enzymes.
  • In very rare cases, surgery may be needed. One common surgical procedure is a colectomy, which involves removing some sections of the colon.
  • Some chronic cases of constipation in dogs may require lifelong medical and/or dietary management.
  • Dogs that are suffering from constipation as a result of behavior or psychogenic causes may need behavioral modification with the aid of training and/or medications.
  • Probiotics and certain supplements have also been known to be successful in correcting dog constipation. Ask your vet about them.

Read more:

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Vomiting and Diarrhea in Dogs

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