Constipation is an extremely painful and sometimes debilitating condition that can affect virtually any living creature, including us and our precious pets. Bowel movements are a normal part of the digestive process, enabling the body to get rid of waste from the food that is eaten and unused.

There is no standard number of bowel movements that a dog should have, and while some canines will empty their bowels multiple times a day, others may only pass stool a few times each week. Knowing your dog’s body is essential to identifying constipation, but ultimately constipation is difficult, infrequent or absence of bowel movements. Constipation is one of the most common digestive health problems in pets and the reason behind countless visits to the vet every year.

How do I know if my dog is constipated?

If your dog is constipated, a variety of symptoms may be experienced. As a responsible owner, it is up to you to recognize that there is a problem and get your pet the help needed. Some of the most common symptoms of canine constipation include:

  • Straining to pass a bowel movement
  • Pain when trying to pass a bowel movement
  • Passing liquid and/or mucus when trying to have a bowel movement
  • Scooting/dragging his rear end along
  • Soreness, swelling or hair loss around the back passage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intermittent vomiting
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Depression

If your dog does manage to pass any stools, they can appear either flat or round, very hard and/or dark in color.

What causes canine constipation?

The digestive process can be affected by many different things. Unfortunately, this means that it may not be immediately obvious what is causing your dog to be constipated. Nevertheless, some of the most common causes of canine constipation include:

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of fiber in her diet
  • Eating non-food items such as grass, soil, or hair
  • Enlarged prostrate
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Tumors/swellings around the anus
  • Kidney problems
  • Hernia
  • Side effects from prescription medication

How can I treat my dog’s constipation?

Unsurprisingly, the best way to treat canine constipation is to identify the underlying cause, and for this you will need the support and advice of a veterinarian. This is because we have the training and experience to be able to look at other potential symptoms – if there are any – and piece together what is happening with your dog’s body. While some episodes of constipation may resolve themselves within a few days, any ongoing bowel issues should never be ignored.

Lifestyle changes can cause dog constipation

You can often treat canine constipation simply by making lifestyle changes. Food, water, and exercise are three fundamental things required in order to maintain a healthy digestive system. You should ensure that your dog has enough dietary fiber, is drinking plenty of fresh water, and getting enough exercise each day. You may have to adjust the levels of each of these until you find a balance that enables your dog to have regular, soft bowel movements that can pass easily.

Veterinary treatment for constipation

If changes to your dog’s diet and lifestyle alone are not improving the constipation, it is almost certainly time to seek professional intervention.

There are a range of different things that we may try to get your dog’s digestive system moving again. These include an enema, a laxative suppository, or medications that strengthen the large intestine so that it can work more effectively.

If your dog is constipated due to an underlying medical condition, then we will work on diagnosing and treating the medical cause. Once this problem has been alleviated, the constipation should begin to resolve itself, although in some cases it may be necessary to have veterinary intervention to kick-start the digestive process again.

Although constipation is a fairly common problem in dogs, it is something that should never be ignored. If your dog is struggling to empty their bowels and you suspect constipation may be occurring, we recommend you seek veterinarian advice. To schedule an appointment with our caring and experienced veterinary team, please call our office today.