Constipation in dog is a common health problem and yet one that is largely preventable. Fortunately, with a little know-how you can learn to recognize the early warning signs of your dog’s constipation, and act before he becomes too uncomfortable.
It helps if you understand the reasons behind your dog’s constipation and ensure he eats the right diet, to reduce the risk of him bunging up. That said, some pets are more prone to this problem than others are, so it’s good to know what dog constipation treatments are available and how they can help.
Is My Dog Constipated?
It is normal for a dog to produce at least one stool a day. If for any reason the dog hangs on and doesn’t go, the longer feces stay in the bowel the harder the stool becomes. These hard dry stools are more difficult to pass and so a vicious circle develops whereby with each passing day the dog finds it harder to defecate.
Any dog that does not produce a bowel movement for two days is considered to be constipated. So what are the other signs you should be alert for?
- Squatting and straining
- Taking a long time to produce just a few hard, fecal nuggets
- No feces produced despite straining
- Passing a small volume of fluid (which can be confused with diarrhea)
- Lack of appetite
- Some constipated dogs also vomit
- A swollen tummy
Not all these signs need to be present in order for you to conclude ‘my dog is constipated’. Also you should be aware there is an overlap in the symptoms of constipation and those of bladder problems.
Always check your dog is passing water freely and without discomfort. A dog that is struggling to pass urine should be treated as an emergency and you must contact your veterinarian immediately.
What Causes Constipation?
A dog might develop constipation for one of any number of reasons, ranging from not enough fiber in his diet to pelvic pain. Topping the list of preventable causes is feeding raw bones. This is because chewed shards of bone, as they travel along the intestine tend to knit together and form a nasty, spiky ball in the rectum, which is very painful to pass.
Indeed, pain is a potent reason why some dogs become inhibited and ‘hold on’ as long as possible. Of course this doesn’t help in the long run because (as you know) the longer feces stay in the bowel, they become dryer and more difficult to pass. Examples of such pain include arthritic hips, impacted anal glands or an inflamed bowel.
Key to preventing pain-associated constipation is tackling the root cause of the discomfort. This could mean giving the dog pain relieving medication for arthritis, or getting the vet to express the dog’s impacted anal glands.
Another cause of constipation is if it is physically difficult for the feces to pass out because of narrowing in the pelvis (perhaps after a fracture) or the rectum forms a pouch where feces get trapped (known as a perineal hernia). Surgical correction of the underlying anatomical defect should cure the problem.
Fiber plays a dual role in that it provides ‘bulk’ for the rectum to push on, and fiber also holds onto water keeping the stool moist for longer The converse is a lack of dietary fiber contributes greatly to constipation.
Try incorporating fresh vegetables into your dog’s diet, or mixing in high fiber supplements such as 100% pumpkin (give about 1 tsp for each 10lb body weight of your dog). Also, speak to your vet about special prescription diets with a high fiber formulation.
Not all constipation in dogs is directly down to the bowel, but can be the result of problems such as an underactive thyroid gland. If you dog lacking energy, sleeps a lot, and suffers from constipation then get him checked by a veterinarian.
What Can I Give My Dog For Constipation?
This is all well and good, but once your dog has a problem, what can you do about it? If you are wondering what to give a dog with constipation, the answer is a gentle laxative. However, if your dog is unwell, vomiting, or lost his appetite, please take him to see your veterinarian.
Liquid paraffin is gently syringed into the dog’s mouth, two or three times a day, until relief occurs. However, all liquid paraffin does is form a slippery coat over the feces, and in a worst case scenario the blockage remains whilst the dog leaks liquid paraffin from his anus. While liquid paraffin is better than nothing, it is far from the ideal treatment and lactulose is the better option.
Lactulose is also a liquid, and is either syringed into the dog’s mouth or added to food. Lactulose works by binding with food in the gut to retain moisture. Thus it promotes a bulkier, moist stool which is easier to pass.
If too much lactulose is given, the dog may develop diarrhea but, unlike with liquid paraffin, the blockage should clear!
What To Do If Your Dog Still Doesn’t Go
Now you know what to do when your dog is constipated, what should you do if the problem doesn’t respond and he still can’t go?
Some cases of constipation can be so severe that it takes an enema to shift them. An enema is a lubricant given directly into the dog’s rectum. The idea is to soften and lubricate the stool so it can pass more easily..
An enema is not something to attempt at home. If done incorrectly you could damage the dog’s bowel -with serious consequences. Also, if the constipation is bad enough to need an enema, the blockage may also need digitally (and we’re not talking electronics but a finger!) breaking down – and you really don’t want to go there (leave it to the professionals!)
Management of constipation and dyschezia. Sherding. Comp Cont Educ 12,
Small Animal Internal Medicine. Nelson and Couto. Publisher: Mosby