Chronic And Acute Constipation In Dogs

What is constipation in dogs?

Constipation in dogs can be a painful and sometimes messy problem. However, constipation in dogs can usually be treated successfully with many home remedies and some care from your local veterinarian.

Constipation is the inability or difficult ability of stool to move through the digestive tract and out the rectum. Several causes are behind constipation, and may include problems with motility including the muscles, nerves and digestive tract itself, problems with the stool including too hard, or even too soft stool, or problems with the rectum and anus and the ability to push stool out.

Symptoms of constipation can include attempting or straining to defecate without success, small or very hard stools that may appear ball-like or even cracked in appearance, painful or bloated abdomen, vomiting or nausea with a loss of appetite, or redness or swelling around the anus and rectum. In some cases, acute diarrhea may also be confused for constipation as dogs may strain to defecate more after an episode of diarrhea, with the lack of results appearing as constipation. Making note of how often your dog has a bowel movement, and its consistency can help to differentiate the two.

Can I prevent my dog from being constipated?

In many cases, constipation can be prevented if related to diet. A proper diet and exercise routine can help keep the muscles and digestive system toned, while good diet can keep stools from becoming too soft, too hard, or stuck in the digestive system. Keeping your dog hydrated is also very important in preventing constipation as stool consistency is directly related to hydration values in your dog.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has constipation?

If your suspect your dog is constipated, it is always a good idea to have your vet rule out more serious causes of the issue  before attempting to treat on your own. Your vet can also work with you to provide over the counter and prescription medications to relieve constipation symptoms. Your vet will perform a complete physical exam, and will likely recommend X-rays (to check the bowels for how full of stool they are), blood work (to look for any internal dysfunction causing symptoms) and fecal analysis (to check for parasites or bacteria leading to constipation) to help find a cause.

For minor constipation, the stool may just need to be helped along with the use of a laxative. Commercial laxatives include products such as lactulose or miralax, or can be supplemented with natural laxatives such as pureed pumpkin. These all help by providing either a stool softening mechanism to making passing stool easier, or by adding fiber to encourage the bowels to place more water into the colon, thus hydrating and softening the stool. Increasing hydration by offering water more often or providing water in treats such as ice cubes can help soften stool as well.

In more severe cases, additional treatment such as IV or subcutaneous fluids and enemas or manual removal of stool may be needed. Stool that has hardened to impaction, or colons that are very full of stool should have the stool removed to promote a return to normal bowel function. Prolonged impaction of stool in the colon can actually cause the colon to shut down or lose motility, leading to further constipation issues in the future. Dogs with possible motility issues may also need a long-term stool softener, probiotic supplement to change stool consistency, or prokinetic drug to increase bowel motility.

Natural Remedies for treating constipation

As mentioned above, some natural remedies are available for treating constipation without harsher medications. These include the use of pureed pumpkin as a fiber supplement, plain yogurt as a probiotic source, or high-fiber diets to help the body form normal stools. Additional remedies may include Sulphur 6C, Nux Vom 1M, Bryonia 6C, Dandelion and Licorice. Working with a holistic or naturopathic veterinarian may also provide more remedies and natural support for digestive health.

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