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  1. dogs digestive health

How to Treat a Constipated Dog

Posted by Dr. Roth on March 11, 2022

Medical Advice
Wellness Care
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Constipation is a common problem in dogs. Most dogs defecate at least once or twice a day. But with constipation, they might not be able to go at all, strain to go, or produce dry and hard stools. 

‌While constipation can affect any dog regardless of age or breed, senior dogs are the ones most likely to deal with the issue. In many cases, pet parents can treat constipation easily. Some dogs, however, may develop chronic constipation — which can lead to more serious complications if not addressed. 

Here’s what pet parents need to know about how to treat a constipated dog. 

What Causes Constipation In Dogs?

In most cases, constipation isn’t the primary problem. It often occurs as a result of another issue. Normally, a dog’s waste contains water and electrolytes that get absorbed by the intestine as it moves through the body. Some health issues can slow this movement. The intestines still absorb water, though — resulting in harder and drier stools.

Common causes of constipation and dog digestion issues include:

Poor dog nutrition, often caused by an unbalanced diet, can also be the culprit. Lack of fiber or water intake could be an issue, too — although dehydration may be caused by kidney issues. A blockage caused by ingesting a non-food item — sometimes caused by too much grooming, which leads to hair accumulating in the digestive system — can also cause constipation.

Complications Caused by Constipation 

Untreated constipation can lead to a condition known as obstipation. When this happens, the dog’s stool becomes so hard and dry that it can’t move. No matter what the dog does, they can’t pass it. Instead, the stool continues to collect in the colon, resulting in megacolon.

As the name suggests, megacolon is a condition in which the colon becomes larger. The dog may become bloated, lethargic, and uncomfortable. They may lose their appetite or vomit. In severe cases, the dog may require surgery to resolve the issue.

Symptoms of Constipation

Several symptoms can point toward constipation, such as:

  • Difficult or painful defecation

  • Straining to defecate, while producing very little stool

  • Hard, pebble-like stools

  • Not defecating for a few days

  • Mucus or blood in the stool

In some cases, a pet parent might think their dog has constipation when they actually have diarrhea. The dog will scoot their bottom, strain, or squat to defecate without anything coming out. If a dog has trouble relieving himself, pet parents should seek veterinary care as soon as possible. 

How to Treat a Constipated Dog

A veterinarian can help pet parents figure out why their dog is dealing with constipation and recommend the appropriate treatment. For dogs with occasional constipation, pet parents may provide relief with simple lifestyle changes. If the root cause is an underlying health problem, treating that issue may help to resolve constipation. 

Simple treatments for constipation include:

  • Pureed pumpkin

  • Canned dog food, for extra moisture

  • Dog health care products, such as probiotics for dogs to improve their digestive health

  • Encouraging the dog to drink more water

  • Bran cereal, for fiber

  • Exercise

  • A low-residue diet 

  • Nerve stimulating medications

  • Enzyme-blocking medications

  • Surgery, in cases where the dog has an impacted colon

Depending on the situation, a vet may recommend an enema to help ease constipation. As the procedure can be uncomfortable and may cause injury if the pet parent doesn’t perform it correctly, a professional should be the one to administer it.

A vet may also recommend a laxative. Pet parents should follow their vet’s dog health advice on using such medications to avoid potential issues in the future. 

Get to the Root of the Problem

Constipation may be a common problem for dogs, but it’s rarely the primary issue. Instead, it often occurs as a result of another health problem. What’s more, pet parents may mistake the symptoms they see as constipation when their dog is actually dealing with diarrhea. 

Understanding what their dog is dealing with and getting to the root of the problem is vital and can allow pet parents to provide the appropriate treatment.

If a pet parent is worried about their dog’s digestive health, getting help as soon as possible is essential. Pet parents can get connected with a vet in seconds any time, day or night, with Fuzzy’s 24/7 Live Vet Chat. They can receive real-time advice, suggestions, and answers to their dog health questions that can help them provide their dog with some much-needed relief. Sign up today to get started.

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