Constipation in Dogs and How to Treat It

Constipation is the inability to defecate normally.  Just like humans, older dogs are more likely to suffer from this.  It can be a serious problem and lead to serious health issues, so should not be ignored.

A constipated dog who is well trained and evacuates at regular intervals daily is described as being constipated if it is experiencing difficult bowel movements and physical distress.  Grass particles, matted feces, string, or other objects in or around the anus is also indicative of constipation.  The size of the feces will be abnormally small and once the condition has progressed, lethargy, vomiting, and loss of appetite may develop.

The most common cause of constipation is swallowing objects that are not easily digested.  However, it can also be caused by slower intestinal processes, enlarged prostate, concurrent kidney disease, hernias, or simply swallowing grass or hair.

How do you treat constipation?  It depends on what caused it.  If you see a string or thread in the anus, do not pull it.  This can cause internal damage.

Always wear rubber gloves when dealing with feces and related anal problems.  If you see feces are matted around the anus, carefully trim with scissors.  If you see grass in the anus, gently ease it out.  Wash the anal region with warm, soapy water and apply a soothing water souluble jelly, such as K-Y to the inflamed area.  Take your  dogs temperature.  If it is abnormally high or there is blood on the thermometer or resistance when inserting the thermometer, see your veterinarian immediately.  Long haired dogs may need to soak the dog’s posterior in warm water before you begin the trimming process to bake it more comfortable.

If you take your dog to the veterinarian, he will do radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, and blood work to identify the underlying cause of constipation in the dog.  In some cases, the dog may be hospitalized and given enemas to remove or pass an obstruction located in the anus.  Fluids may be given under the skin to ensure good hydration of the intestinal tract.  In the case of an intact male whose prostrate is causing the problem, neutering will be recommended.  If the constipation is severe, the veterinarian may give the dog fluids intravenously.

If your dog has a history of constipation, adding a little mineral oil to your dog’s meal can help.  The proper dosage is one teaspoon for every eleven pounds your dog weighs.  Do not feed this oil orally, as the dog will aspirate it into the lungs and develop pneumonia.  Your veterinarian may recommend stool softeners as well as fiber supplements to assist the dog in passing feces.

Dogs naturally eat grass on occasion.  This should be discouraged as much as possible.  Avoid giving your dog bones and instead substitute a nylon chew toy.  Use doggy laxatives to soften the stool and provide your dog with water at all times.  Dehydration causes constipation, too.

Constipation is a bit embarrassing for you and your dog, but can develop into a health emergency.  Take it seriously and take your dog to the veterinarian if necessary.