Constipation in dogs: how to recognize and treat it

Constipation in dogs often goes unnoticed, even though it is actually a fairly common ailment. Diarrhoea is more likely to send you to the vet because, for one, it’s more noticeable and highly unpleasant and inconvenient for the dog owner. However, there could be dire consequences for a   constipated dog if left untreated, not to mention it could be an indication of a serious underlying health condition.

What exactly is a constipated dog and what are the symptoms?

Your pooch is constipated when he is having trouble pooping and the stools are dry and hard, or he goes for several days without defecating at all.

The most obvious symptom is if he doesn’t have a bowel movement for 24 hours. Other ways to tell if your dog is suffering from constipation is straining while trying to ‘go’, making circling movements, dragging his bum on the floor, crying when trying to do his business, hard stools, lack of appetite, or sometimes even vomiting.

The causes of constipation

There could be a number of reasons why your dog is constipated, but here are the more common ones:

  • Dehydration
  • Obstructions (anything from foreign objects to tumours and hernias)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Certain medications
  • Hip or pelvic pain
  • Neurological problems
  • Old age
  • Tangled and matted fur

What to do if you suspect your dog is constipated

You probably have a good idea of your dog’s bowel movements due to your daily routine (letting your dogs out in the morning and evening before you go to bed etc), not to mention having to pick up after them all the time. So you should have a pretty good idea fairly quickly if he is suffering. Keep an eye on him, try to increase his water intake, and hopefully it will resolve itself. If he is still suffering after two days, a trip to the vet is necessary.

Treatment of constipation in dogs

Treatment depends on the symptoms and diagnosis. After examining your dog, the vet will make recommendations about whether medical intervention is necessary, or will suggest dietary changes, supplements or the use of stool softeners or laxatives. Always follow the vet’s treatment, do not try and treat the constipation yourself and never give medicines which are meant for humans with the same problem.

How to prevent your pets from getting constipated

While you can’t really prevent arthritis, tumours, hernias and other structural obstructions, you can watch for chewing/swallowing of toys or bones. Also ensure they are well groomed, have a healthy fibre-rich diet, access to a water bowl that is constantly replenished, and plenty of exercise. This will go a long way to ensuring a healthy digestive system and a happy pooch!

If you have any questions or concerns with regards to your pets, it is advisable to consult a registered veterinarian. This article is intended as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose or treat a sick animal.

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