Constipation in dogs can be due to something as simple as a change of diet but may also be an indication of a very serious health concern that requires urgent veterinary care. Here, our Jacksonville vets explain some causes and what to do if your dog is constipated.

Constipation is a Serious Health Concern for Dogs

To begin, it is very important to note that dog constipation is no laughing matter. Pain while passing feces or an inability to pass feces is considered a veterinary emergency and can be a sign of a potentially life-threatening health problem such as a bowel obstruction. If your dog is constipated it is important to call your vet as soon as possible in order to pinpoint the underlying cause before the condition becomes more severe.

Dog Constipation Symptoms

Are your dog's bowel movements infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent altogether? If so, your pet is likely suffering from constipation.

Straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or is producing hard, dry stools, are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.

Constipated dogs may pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently without defecating. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry out.

Causes of Constipation in Dogs

If your canine companion has eaten something they shouldn't have there is a chance that their constipation is being caused by an obstruction or blockage. This is a medical emergency that should be diagnosed by a vet as soon as possible and may require urgent surgery to resolve. 

That said, there are other causes of constipation in dogs, including:

  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Illnesses resulting in dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (excessive amounts of hair collected in the stool)
  • A medication side effect
  • An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions themself to defecate
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Matted hair surrounding the anus (caused by obesity or lack of grooming)
  • Neurological disorder
  • Obstruction caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to the pelvis

Senior dogs are more prone to bouts of constipation. Nonetheless, any dog that experiences one or more of the scenarios above could develop constipation.

Treatment for Constipation in Dogs

Many pet parents come to us saying, "My dog is constipated. What can I give my dog for constipation?". The first thing to note is that you should never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your veterinarian! Many human medications are toxic to dogs.

If you believe that your dog is constipated, the best thing you can do for your pup is to contact your vet to book an urgent examination. The treatment for constipation will vary depending on the underlying cause of your dog's condition.

Blood tests can be helpful in determining whether your pup has an infection or is suffering from dehydration. Your vet will likely take a medical history, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:

  • Prescription diet high in fiber
  • Stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home!)
  • Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin or products such as Metamucil)
  • Small bowl of goat or cow milk
  • Medication to increase the large intestine's contractile strength

Follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely, as trying too many of these or the wrong combination may bring on the opposite problem - diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.

Dog Constipation Left Untreated

Left untreated, it is possible that your pup could reach the point where they become unable to empty their colon on their own (a condition called obstipation). The colon then becomes packed with an uncomfortably large amount of feces, causing lethargy, unproductive straining, loss of appetite and potentially vomiting.

Intestinal blockages caused by the ingestion of foreign objects such as toys or fabrics can quickly become fatal.

When it comes to your pet's health and safety err on the side of caution, contact your vet if your pet is constipated.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of constipation contact Pet Doctors of America right away to book an urgent examination for your four-legged friend.