Depending on the type of diet, a healthy dog usually has one to two bowel movements a day. Occasionally, a dog may go without stools for one day or even two. This is no cause for worry provided that when the dog does pass stool, he is not straining and the stools are firm and normal in size.
Constipation in dogs refers to infrequent, absent, or difficult defecation.
Constipated dogs usually pass hard or dry feces.
Dog Constipation Symptoms
Constipated dogs show the following symptoms:
- Straining to defecate, may be painful
- Passing only a small amount of feces or none at all
- Feces are hard and dry
- Frequency of defecation is less than normal and irregular
Causes of Constipation in Dogs
There are quite a few possible causes of dog constipation. Here are the most common ones:
Ingestion of Indigestible Objects
One of the most common causes of dog constipation is the ingestion of something that is indigestible, such as hair, grass, paper, bone chips, and sticks. The indigestible object mixes with feces to form hard, rock-like masses in the colon, causing constipation.
As in humans, dogs whose diets are low in fiber tend to develop constipation. Insufficient water intake also predisposes a dog to constipation.
Constipation is also a common problem among older dogs, who tend to drink less water resulting in hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. In addition, older dogs tend to exercise less, and have weaker muscles of the abdominal wall.
Older male dogs may also have prostate problems.
Many drugs cause constipation in dogs as a side effect. Some of these drugs include antacids, antihistamines, iron supplements, and diuretics.
Some dogs may inhibit the urge to defecate when left alone in the house and have no access to the outside to release themselves. Other dogs may be unwilling to empty their bowels when they are in an unfamiliar environment, e.g. in a hospital, a kennel, etc.
Some canine illnesses cause constipation in dogs. For example, hypothyroidism is an occasional cause of chronic constipation.
Fecal impaction, which is a mass of hard stool that has got stuck in the rectum and colon, can also cause constipation despite forceful straining.
Older male dogs suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement) or prostate cancer also tend to have constipation.
Constipation can also be a symptom of cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
When To See A Vet
- The dog does not have a bowel movement for over two days.
- The dog strains to defecate.
- The dog shows pain during defecation.
- There is blood or mucus in the stools.
Treatment of Constipation in Dogs
Treatment of canine constipation involves the identification, and elimination or control of the underlying cause, while at the same time, relieving the symptoms.
Symptomatic treatments may include:
For mild cases of constipation, bulking agents such as methylcellulose, bran, or pumpkin can be added to the dog’s diet.
Frequent Exercise and Water Intake
Regular exercise and sufficient intake of water can promote regular bowel movements.
Use of Laxatives
Products that contain lactulose may be prescribed by your vet and are safe to use on dogs. Milk is sometimes added to diets to give a mild laxative effect. Milk of magnesia is also used as a mild laxative.
Stronger stimulant laxatives (e.g. Dulcolax) are effective in treating constipation but should only be used under veterinary supervision and as a last resort, since repeated use can interfere with the proper functioning of the colon.
Finally, if a dog is suffering from a more serious case of constipation, enemas may be given at a veterinary clinic.