Constipation can be a frustrating, painful problem—whether it happens to a human or a dog. In most cases, a dog will need to produce stools one or two times a day, but if he’s having problems he’ll either strain a great deal or his stool will be a great deal harder than normal. Here are some of the causes of dog constipation, as well as symptoms to watch out for and some of the potential treatment options.
Causes of Dog Constipation
There are a lot of potential reasons why your dog might be constipated, ranging from non-serious to possibly life threatening. Constipation can be the result of some sort of blockage inside the colon, an obstruction outside of the colon, or a disease or injury to a nerve.
Fecal matter normally moves smoothly through dog’s system into the colon, where electrolytes and water are taken out to be used elsewhere in the body. A process known as peristalsis moves feces through the colon and through the anus. However, if something either slows or impairs this process, the fecal matter will stay in the colon. It will continue to dry and harden until it becomes impossible for the dog to defecate.
Diet is usually the main culprit behind canine constipation. Dogs are much the same as humans in that if they don’t get enough fiber they can sometimes have difficulty defecating. And, of course, dogs will eat just about anything they can get to, whether that’s your Sunday dinner or a toy. Many of them, for whatever reason, also like to get into a cat’s litter box and eat whatever they can find. Calcium in the diet, such as bone meal, dog bones and other sources, can also make it difficult for a dog to “go.”
Older dogs are often at a higher risk for becoming constipated, as can dogs who don’t get out and exercise as much as they need.
Other Reasons for Dog Constipation
These are some of the other potential reasons that constipation can occur:
· Problems with the central nervous system
· Dehydration or a lack of electrolytes
· Tumors in the digestive tract or the pelvic area
· Issues with the anal glands
· Metabolism problems
· An injury or disease affecting the spinal area
· Medications such as diuretics, antacids, opiates and others
· Certain medical procedures, or the drugs given to the dog during surgery
Symptoms of Dog Constipation
Just like in humans, the symptoms of constipation in a dog are usually hard to ignore. Your dog might not have been able to defecate for a few days, or he may be passing stools that are extremely dry and hard, and might feel like small rocks when you pick them up from your yard. Other signs include difficult or painful defecation or a condition known as tenesmus, which occurs when a dog strains to defecate and can only produce a small amount of diarrhea mixed with blood.
Treating Dog Constipation at Home
Tempting as it is to try and fix dog constipation right at home, your safest and surest bet is to discuss options with your veterinarian. That way, your vet will be aware of this issue that your dog is dealing with, so if any emergencies come up, they will already know how to help.
There are a few things you can try at home if your dog hasn’t been able to poop for a couple of days. Just remember that all dogs are different, just like humans. What works for one might not work for another.
One of the more interesting home remedies involves giving your dog a spoonful of canned pumpkin. What makes it interesting is that it’s not only a remedy for constipation but diarrhea as well. Since dogs love it, and it’s high in moisture as well as fiber, it’s an excellent option for both problems. You’ll probably see a lot of different recipes for pumpkin-based treats for dogs with digestive problems, but the best course of action will probably be just to give it to your dog straight out of the can.
Be careful, though, because pumpkin doesn’t have much of a shelf life once you open a can. Even if you use something to seal the can once it’s opened and put it in the refrigerator, it will quickly spoil.
Canned vs Dry Food?
You could also try canned dog food if you normally give him dry food. Canned food has a great deal more moisture and could help him get back to normal. There are some powdered supplements available that are rich in fiber, which could help your dog’s digestive system work as it should.
One study even showed that fig paste could be an effective treatment option to help alleviate constipation. This particular study involved giving the substance to beagles.1
Whatever home remedy you choose, always make sure your dog has plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also, make sure he gets as much mild exercise as possible, which could help loosen whatever is causing the problem. Don’t do anything too strenuous, because that will be uncomfortable for your pet.
When to See the Vet
Again, most of the causes of dog constipation are benign. But there are some instances where your dog might not be able to poop no matter what you try at home. The cause could still be something that’s not serious, but it could also be something that requires immediate attention. See your veterinarian if your dog hasn’t gone for a couple of days so he or she can find out what’s wrong.
You’ll need to be able to provide a great deal of information to the vet, such as the last time your dog’s bowel movement was normal, the color and consistency of the stool, and any changes that may have recently affected his routine or diet. You’ll also need to let your veterinarian know if your dog has recently eaten any sort of non-food item (cat litter, part of a toy, a bone, etc.) and whether or not he strains when he tries to defecate.
Also, tell your vet about any medications you’ve given the dog, any injuries he might have suffered, or if he’s been vomiting or seems bloated.
Use Your Best Judgment
In the majority of cases, all it takes to clear up dog constipation is some mild treatments designed to increase fiber and liquids in the system. Enemas or laxatives are sometimes tried. If these don’t work, however, your dog might need the feces removed manually, and he might need certain drugs that help the colon work normally.
But as long as you give your dog a well-balanced diet, keep him hydrated and get him exercise on a regular basis, the chances are good you won’t have to deal with constipation very often.
For more helpful dog health tips, keep reading:
1.Oh, Hong-Geun et al. “Effects Officus Caricapaste On Constipation Induced By A High-Protein Feed And Movement Restriction In Beagles”. N.p., 2017. Print.