Dog constipation, just like human constipation, is an extremely frustrating condition. Fortunately, it’s usually pretty easy to tell if this is happening to your beloved companion. What can you do if your pup is constipated?
These are just some of the symptoms of dog constipation, and ways you can address the problem so your dog can get back to normal as fast as possible.
What is Dog Constipation?
Dog constipation occurs when your pet is unable to produce stool normally. Just like people, dogs often have a typical schedule of when they poop, and it usually happens one or two times each day. When your dog is constipated, this schedule gets completely out of whack.
While dog constipation is normally associated with a lack of stool production, it can actually occur when there is too much stool in the bowel. A condition known as “obstipation” occurs when there is so much stool in the digestive system that the dog is unable to pass it at all.1
Why Dog Constipation Occurs
Fecal matter usually moves smoothly through your dog’s digestive tract. Once it reaches the colon, your dog’s body absorbs electrolytes and water from stool. The material then moves through the colon, a process known as peristalsis.
If something happens to either slow or disrupt peristalsis, fecal matter becomes hard and dry because it loses too much moisture.
It then becomes difficult, or even impossible, for your dog to pass it. That’s when the symptoms of dog constipation start to show up.2
There are several different causes behind the symptoms of dog constipation. If dog constipation is the result of a blockage occurring inside the colon, that is known as intraluminal constipation. Extraluminal dog constipation refers to an obstruction that develops outside of the colon. If the condition occurs due to a nerve injury or disease, that is known as intrinsic constipation.3
One of the more common reasons why the symptoms of dog constipation develop is a dog’s diet. Not getting enough fiber may increase the likelihood of your dog becoming constipated. And certain sources of calcium, such as bones or bone meal, can sometimes contribute to the problem. Additionally, dogs are well known for ingesting non-food items, such as small toys. This can lead to a blockage that makes it impossible for your pup to poop. But the main cause of constipation is typically diet.4
Other factors can lead to the development of constipation symptoms. Older dogs, for instance, are at more of a risk. If dogs don’t get enough exercise, that can slow down peristalsis. Dehydration and certain medications can also cause symptoms to occur. Stress can sometimes bring on symptoms as well.5
Signs Your Dog is Constipated
Again, the symptoms of dog constipation are usually obvious. One of the more common symptoms is the production of small, dry stools that are very hard.6 Other common symptoms of dog constipation include lack of a bowel movement for a day or two and/or straining to poop with hardly anything to show for it. If your dog does this, they may have a problem known as tenesmus. Some dogs with tenesmus will only be able to produce a small number of liquid feces. In some instances, blood may be mixed in with the feces.7
There are other signs to watch out for as well. If your dog scoots their bottom along the ground, walks in circles, or cries out, that could mean your pet is having a hard time passing feces. Other signs include vomiting, a lack of appetite, and weight loss. In some cases, a dog will growl or cry if you press on the abdomen or lower portion of their back.8
Addressing Your Dog’s Symptoms
If your pet is showing symptoms of dog constipation, you’ve got several options to help offer relief. Not all dogs are alike. What might reduce symptoms in one dog might not work for another. But as long as you talk to your vet, and they say it’s safe to do so, there are a few things you might be able to try at home.
Try giving your dog some pumpkin. Pumpkin not only helps dogs with constipation, it also helps dogs that have diarrhea and go too much. Dogs love the taste of pumpkin, and it has the fiber and moisture content they need to get back to being regular.9
Another method of dealing with a constipated dog is to try to make sure they get more exercise. This will help promote normal bowel movement. It could even provide a psychological boost. Additionally, if your dog is walking in areas where other pets have defecated, this could help trigger their urge to poop. Remember to keep your dog well hydrated before and after the walk.10
The Bottom Line
If your dog is showing the signs of being constipated, don’t panic. This is a normal occurrence that happens to a lot of pets. If, however, you can’t fix the issue at home, and your dog’s symptoms last for more than a few days, get them to a veterinarian. A vet will perform tests to get to the cause of the issue and then determine the best course of action. This could mean medications, supplements, or recommending a different type of diet for a little while. If need be, your vet can perform more involved medical intervention.11
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