Just like humans, dogs can experience bouts of constipation.
Severe cases can bring extreme discomfort, so it is essential to be on the front foot with treatment. There are plenty of home remedies you can try to resolve your dog's constipation.
Below is a guide to help assess and assist your dog during this uncomfortable time.
Signs A Dog Is Constipated
A dog will be able to produce regular stools at least once or twice a day. By monitoring their toilet habits over a few days, you will determine if your dog has had fewer bowel movements.
Take note of the quantity of urine and feces. Focus on the color, texture, smell, and if there is mucus or blood present. These are indicators of how well the dog's body is functioning.
A constipated dog will strain to defecate, producing little to no stools. Watch for crouching or crying when defecating, this may indicate constipation. If they are passing stools, they will appear hard dry and darker in color.
Urinary tract infections can display similar signs, and it is recommended to see a vet for diagnosis.
Dogs will display a reduction in appetite as well as long periods of lethargy.
What Is Constipation?
Regular bowel movements involve fecal matter passing through the digestive tract to the colon. The colon absorbs water and electrolytes from the mass before it moves on.
Constipation in dogs, similar to humans, is caused when this process, known as "peristaltic waves," is impaired or slowed. The stool will stall in the colon, becoming dry and hard, resulting in it being harder to pass.
This can be caused by many factors, including diet, age, pre-existing conditions, and how frequently they exercise. More often than not, it is a result of the dog ingesting irritating or indigestible substances.
Causes Of Constipation
Much like humans, too little or too much fiber in a dog's diet may affect bowel movements.
Dehydration can be a factor, so make sure your dog has access to plenty of water. Mark your dog's bowl if you believe they are not drinking enough. Be mindful of hotter days as their water requirement will increase. Also, the more active your dog, the more water they will need.
Dog's are known to ingest things they aren't supposed to, such as gravel, kids' toys, socks, and cat litter. Foreign objects can cause blockages in the bowel leading to constipation.
Adding a small amount of bran (wheat or oat) to a dog's diet can be a preventative.
Lack of exercise has been known to affect a dog's bowel movement.
Existing Health Problems
Blocked or abscessed anal glands, pelvic trauma, a neurologic disorder, or enlarged prostate glands can cause constipation.
Constipation is more common in elderly dogs due to infrequent or difficult bowel movements. Try feeding your dog seniors food as this is tailored to an older dog's requirements.
Some medications can cause dog constipation, read labels for side effects.
Long-haired dogs may also become constipated if the hair around the anus becomes matted, blocking the passing of stools. Watch if your dog drags their bottom on the ground as this can indicate a build-up. Regularly clip the hair in this area to avoid knots.
How Can You Treat Dog Constipation?
If the problem has been happening for less than 24 hours, you may be able to use home remedies to relieve your dog's constipation. However, it is recommended to visit a veterinarian for help.
A change in diet and physical activity can help relieve constipation.
Pumpkin: Plain canned pumpkin is moist and high in fiber. Most dogs will enjoy the flavor, making it a natural additive to their diet. Give a dog weighing up to 20 pounds one tablespoon, 21-60 pounds two to three tablespoons, and three tablespoons to a constipated dog over 61 pounds. Repeat this dosage 2-3 times a day.
Oils: Mineral, olive, or vegetable oil can help to lubricate stools.
Add a tablespoon to your dog's food. Avoid giving oil orally as it can cause aspiration as a dog breathes it into the lungs.
Use this remedy as a last resort, as too much can cause diarrhea.
Switch to canned foods: Canned dog food's high moisture content could help improve stool movement.
In some cases, dry kibble may be the cause of constipation. Changing to wet food for a few days may help a constipated dog pass hard dry stools.
Mixing ginger to chicken or beef broth: This is an easy option using ingredients straight out of the pantry.
Ginger helps to reduce an upset stomach, and the broth fat will aid in moving things along. Try mixing half a teaspoon of ginger with half a cup of chicken or beef broth.
Increase Exercise: Take your dog for a walk to help massage the internal organs and increase blood flow to the colon. This will stimulate movement within the gastrointestinal tract.
Exercise will also reduce obesity, which increases the risk of constipation.
Make sure to consult your vet before trying any home remedies.
Supplements: Try using natural supplements such as acidophilus (bacteria used as a probiotic), folic acid, and vegetable enzymes to aid in bowel movement.
Psyllium can be bought at a pharmacy, grocery store, or online. It works by pulling water into the stool to help it progress. It is recommended to give a dog one teaspoon per 10 pounds of dog weight.
Give psyllium with plenty of water or other liquids to be most effective. It may take up to 72 hours for laxative action to occur. If symptoms continue, seek veterinary help.
Laxatives: In some cases, a human laxative can be given to a constipated dog. Discuss with your vet before administering it as the dosage will depend on your dog's size and weight.
Stool softener: Is a medication that increases water absorption in the intestine. This will help make the dog's stool softer and more comfortable to pass.
The dosage will vary depending on your dog, and you should follow veterinary advice.
Enema: Symptoms lasting longer than 24 hours will require veterinary attention. Arm yourself with as much information as possible about your dog's condition.
Advise your vet the dog's last bowel movement, the color of the stool, about the dog's diet, and any current medication or illnesses.
Do not perform a home enema or suppository on your dog as it can be very painful and, in some cases, toxic to pets.
Before adjusting your dog's diet or administering medication, you should consult your vet to make sure your dog isn't showing symptoms of a more serious illness.
What Happens if Left Untreated
Constipation in dogs that is not resolved will lead to severe discomfort. A build-up of matter in the colon can cause a loss of appetite and vomiting.
In some rare and extreme cases, the build-up can lead to an enlarged colon (megacolon) where the colon is stretched and can no longer perform properly. If this happens, surgery may be required.
Once your dog begins regular movements, take note if there is blood in the stool. Blood could indicate a more severe health issue and will require veterinary care.
For most dogs, constipation will be infrequent and manageable. Being aware of the signs and symptoms that your dog is constipated will assist with quick treatment.
If home remedies do not solve the problem within 24 hours, your dog will require veterinary care.
Ensuring that your dog has a well-balanced diet, access to fresh water daily, and regular exercise will help reduce the chances of constipation.
If you are ever in doubt, always consult your vet.