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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.
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:
An enlarged prostate
Anal gland issues
Injuries to the spine or pelvis
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
A low-residue diet
Nerve stimulating 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.
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.