Constipation 101 | Constipation in Dogs

by Nancy Boland

Constipation is defined as the inability to defecate normally. Much like people, older dogs are more prone to this condition, though it can happen to any breed of dog at any age. Constipation should not be ignored, as extended periods of distress can cause serious health concerns.

SIGNS

A dog that strains to defecate, especially if it is well-trained and goes at regular intervals daily, is described as being constipated. Grass particles, matted feces, string, or other objects in or around the anus is also indicative of constipation. The size of the feces will be abnormally small and once the condition has progressed, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite may develop.

PRIMARY CAUSE

The most common cause of constipation is swallowing objects that are not easily digested, if at all, such as a piece of dry bone. However, it can also be caused by slower intestinal processes, enlarged prostates, kidney disease, hernias, or simply eating something abnormal for your dog.

IMMEDIATE CARE

  • Always wear rubber gloves when dealing with feces and related anal problems.
  • If you can see grass in the anus, gently ease it out.
  • If feces are matted around the anus, trim carefully with scissors.
  • Wash the anal region with warm, soapy water to the inflamed area.
  • Take the dog’s temperature, or get your vet to if symptoms have persisted without improvement.

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VET CARE

If constipation persists, finding a diagnosis to a potentially underlying issue is key. Radiographs, abdominal ultrasound and blood work are some of the more common tests recommended for identifying the underlying cause of long term constipation.

TREATMENT

If in doubt, or in the cases noted above, call your vet and have the dog examined. Fluids under the skin may be administered to ensure good hydration to the intestinal tract. In severe cases of constipation, your veterinarian may administer fluids intravenously.

 MANAGEMENT

Some dogs have a history of periodic constipation, especially as they get older. Adding bran can be a much welcomed source of fibre and help ease symptoms. If this problem is recurring, your veterinarian may also recommend stool softeners as well as fibre supplementation to assist in the intestinal transit.

PREVENTION

Although it is natural for a dog to eat grass on occasion, this habit should be controlled as much as possible. Avoid giving your dog bones; and treat them to an organic, natural treat made with human-friendly ingredients with more fibre. Use purpose-made laxatives to soften the stool and above all else, provide your dog with water regularly. Neutering your dog at an early age will also prevent growth of the prostate, which can lead to constipation.

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