Symptoms of constipation can be uncomfortable for our dogs - and concerning for pup parents. Our Stroudsburg vets share signs of constipation in dogs, causes, and tips for treating the condition.

What is constipation in dogs?

If your pooch’s bowel movements are infrequent, difficult, or absent, he is suffering from one of the most common health problems seen in pets’ digestive systems - constipation.

Inability to pass feces, or pain associated with passing feces is considered a veterinary medical emergency and requires immediate care. It may also be a case for an internal medicine specialist.

If he also strains when attempting to defecate and/or is producing hard, dry stools, these also hallmark signs.

When trying to urinate, circling excessively, scooting along the ground, or frequently squatting, some dogs may also pass mucus. It's possible for them to have a tense, painful abdomen that makes them growl or cry if you press on their lower back or stomach.

What causes constipation in dogs?

There may be many factors contributing to your dog’s constipation:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Excessive or insufficient fiber in his diet
  • Other illnesses leading to dehydration
  • Blocked or abscessed anal sacs
  • Excessive self-grooming (may cause a large amount of hair to collect in the stool)
  • Neurological disorder
  • A side effect of medication
  • An orthopedic issue causing pain when a dog positions himself 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)
  • Ingested pieces of toys, gravel, plants, dirt, and bones caught in the intestinal tract
  • Obstruction is caused by tumors or masses on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Trauma to pelvis

Elderly pets may experience constipation more often. However, any dog that faces one or more of the scenarios above can suffer from constipation.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

When attempting to urinate, constipation symptoms include straining, crying, or crouching. Additionally, you should see your veterinarian right away if it has been more than two days since he last had a bowel movement.

Keep in mind that these symptoms may be similar to those that could point to a urinary tract issue, so it’s important that your vet perform a full physical exam to diagnose the cause.

How is constipation in dogs treated?

Google “How to treat constipation in dogs” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious.

The best course of action is to visit your vet and have your dog examined. Blood tests could help identify an infection or hydration issues. The veterinarian may suggest one or a combination of the following treatments after taking a medical history, performing a rectal examination to rule out additional causes or abnormalities, and other procedures:

  • A prescription diet high in fiber
  • A stool softener or another laxative
  • More exercise
  • Enema (administered by a professional, not at home, as there could be a risk of injury or toxicity if done incorrectly)
  • Adding more fiber to your dog’s diet (wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or products such as Metamucil)
  • A small bowl of goat or cow milk
  • Medication to increase the large intestine’s contractile strength

Follow your vet’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.

Fortunately, we have an in-house lab where diagnostic tests are performed, and an in-house lab and pharmacy that’s stocked with a range of medications and prescription diets, providing us quick access to any medications your pet may need while in our care.

What can happen if my dog’s constipation is not treated?

Constipation in your dog may eventually prevent him from being able to empty his colon on his own if it is not treated (a condition called obstipation). The result is an uncomfortable buildup of feces in the colon, which results in lethargy, fruitless straining, appetite loss, and possibly vomiting.

Is your dog showing symptoms of constipation? Visit our Stroudsburg veterinary hospital to receive care for your dog. Any time of the day or night, our vets are here whenever your pet needs us.