You are walking your dog as usual on a peaceful day in the park. Suddenly, your dog stops and positions itself to have a bowel movement. Normal routine, once done you head for home.
But this time you notice your dog is straining. Chances are if your dog strains and has a dry, firm bowel movement it is a case of constipation. But if your dog strains and there is no sign of bowel movement then this is a case of obstipation.
Of course, the latter is more worrisome and should concern the owner more if the dog keeps on regularly straining throughout the day without producing anything. Cures for constipation will depend on causes. Some cases may be treated at home through a natural home remedy while others need immediate vet attention.
Causes of Constipation
Most worrisome cases are those where dogs develop other symptoms along with constipation. If your dog is a “foreign object eater” starts to strain and does not produce a bowel movement, then an intestinal obstruction should be suspected, especially if the dog starts vomiting as well and is unable to keep food and/or water down.
Do not be tricked though if you dog develops some diarrhea, as sometimes some feces make it though around the obstruction in this liquid form.
If your dog loves ingesting rocks, buttons, coins or just anything and the above symptoms seem all too familiar then a prompt vet visit is required.
X-rays will confirm the obstruction and emergency surgery may be needed.
If you dog does not have the “vacuum cleaner” reputation but the above symptoms still appear too much familiar have him still seen as there are other causes such as polyps, tumors, intestinal intussusception or an enlarged prostate that may block the passage of stools. Sometimes the issue is lower down the road. Rectal abscesses, fistulas, prolapse, or an anal tumor may be the contributing factor. Search the area for any abnormalities or have a vet check the rectal area since many times the problem may not be visibly seen.
Some endocrine conditions such as hypothyroidism or parathyroid’s may cause constipation.
A regular thyroid level test may be helpful to rule these conditions out. Sometimes parasites may bring a bout of constipation. Whipworms are a known cause. Have your dog’s stool checked for parasites. The stool needs to be not older than 12 hours old for testing accuracy. Neurological damage may disrupt nerves related to promoting bowel movements.
This can occur due to trauma, nerve damage, or spinal cord disease to name a few. Sometimes the trigger is a medication that your dog has been taking. Diuretics, antihistamines and anti acids may be the culprits. Read the medication’s label carefully and see if constipation is listed as a side effect.
Some dogs develop constipation post surgery. This may be a normal occurrence due to the fact that the dog has fasted the night before and is likely to refuse food after wards. Recovery time and pain are other contributing factors. The dog should relieve itself soon as regular diet is re-introduced, pain meds are administered and recovery takes place.
When constipation is accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting then it has gone too far. The vet needs to be seen. The dog may need fluids in order to be re-hydrated and an enema. Medications such as docusate sodium (Colace) or Lactulose may be prescribed to help soften stools. Owners must be informed that over the counter enemas are for human use only, they can be toxic to our pets and provide more trouble than relief. Your vet may give you directions on how to administer a warm, soapy enema yourself.
Home Remedies For Dog Constipation
- Your dog may just simply need a little extra fiber added to its diet. As a home remedy you can try to add one to two teaspoons of regular pumpkin (not pie filling) to its food. This helps keep things moving. Pun intended!
- Some people have had success adding some bran to dog food.
- Others have been adding a sprinkle of Metamucil, however this should be added to canned food only and with plenty of water.
- Dogs that are lactose intolerant have benefited from drinking milk or eating dairy products. However, care must be provided in not giving too much or the opposite problem will shortly arise!
- Adding some moisture to dry dog food may help. A few teaspoons of water added to kibble or offering some canned food should suffice.
- Mineral oil ( 1 tbsp per 10 lbs.) will sometimes relieve the most severe cases of constipation, however administer it only mixed in with food. Do not administer it orally directly such as through a syringe or by placing it on the tongue! Keep in mind as well to use mineral oil sparingly since if used too often it will interfere with proper absorption of vitamins.
- Lack of exercise just as in humans is known to slow things down. Provide a good exercise regimen and plenty of water.
Owners should be aware that dogs with frequent bouts of constipation may become prone to a condition known as Mega colon. This condition is irreversible ( unless surgery is performed) and requires frequent enemas and trips to the vet to manually empty the bowels. This can be painful and very annoying.
It should be therefore up to the owner’s discretion to properly identify a case which can be treated at home from a case that requires immediate vet attention.
Constipation can be easily diagnosed by an attentive owner however, successfully diagnosing the underlying cause of constipation is another story.
Any time your dog exhibits a symptom that does not go away, appears unexplainable, and/or is accompanied by other symptoms and pain please drive him at a minimum by a vet or emergency center.
As a regular rule of thumb, use discretion. In simple words, when in doubt, get on route!