Constipation in Dogs
Your Guide to Better Bowel Movements

Constipation in dogs – we don’t like to see it. When they have to strain hard to relieve themselves, it hurts us as well. Straining can take place when they don’t have one or two bowel movements a day.

Fortunately there are things we can do about it. In this article I will cover the following:

• Causes of dog constipation 

Symptoms of dog constipation

• How constipation can affect a dog’s health

• How to overcome dog constipation

• Constipation in older dogs

Causes of Dog Constipation

Dog constipation can be caused by a number of things.  

  1. Your dog doesn't get enough bulk in it’s diet

  2. Your dog doesn't get enough fiber in it’s food

  3. Your dog doesn't drink enough water

  4. Your dog doesn't get enough exercise

  5. Your dog has taken a course of antibiotics or other drugs that can cause constipation

  6. Your dog eats paper, pieces of bone, or other items it has difficulty in passing

  7. Though rare, a tumor may block the passage of the feces

  8. Your dog can’t go out and relieve itself when it needs to; delayed defecation results in a compacted stool

A weak rectum

Some dogs may have a weak rectum. With this weakness, the stool, though partly expelled, slips back in again. Dogs can have trouble getting the whole bowel movement out.

When the rectum is weak, signs include chronic constipation with straining and stools that are sticky and messy rather than hard. Even though the stool is soft, weak rectal muscles make passage difficult.

Taking a daily mineral supplement rich in magnesium may help constipation in dogs that have a weak rectum. Magnesium draws more water into the colon, creating pressure that helps flush out stool.

Intestinal obstructions

Obstructions can happen when a dog swallows items that it isn't able to digest, including bones and hair. These mix in with fecal matter and can cause problems.

Longer term constipation can be caused by something on the outside of the bowels pressing against them, by an obstruction in the intestines, or because nerves that regulate the muscles of the colon have been damaged.

A reluctance to have regular bowel movements may be caused by pain experienced during defecation or from stress caused by the dog's environment. These can contribute to dry, hard feces.

Symptoms of Dog Constipation

By being observant, it is fairly easy to figure out when the problem of constipation in dogs exists.

  1. Does your dog have to strain when it attempts to have a bowel movement.  This is very uncomfortable for the dog and should not be taken lightly by the owner of the pet.

  2. Your dog may show a sign of pain when it defecates, like whimpering or other sounds.

  3. Note whether your dog goes regularly, at least daily.

  4. When a dog poops it should be formed, but soft.  If it is rock hard, it is because of constipation.

  5. If you observe constipation, vomiting or depression, it may be an indication that your dog has eaten lead (found in fishing weights, batteries, some paints or motor oil), and it has affected your dog’s gastrointestinal and neurological systems.

  6. If your dog is constipated, it could be that his symptoms are related to another problem. Constipation and colitis (inflammation of the colon) are a lot alike. If natural constipation remedies don’t work, you may need to give your vet a call.


How Constipation Can Affect a Dog's Health

A dog with repeated but ineffectual straining may show irritability, pain and a tendency to hide or a desire to just be left alone. Straining can cause balloons to develop in the colon wall. Feces tends to lodge in these balloons, which then becomes a breeding ground for infection and disease.

Constipation may develop further into chronic constipation. This causes toxins that were supposed to be eliminated to be reabsorbed into the blood system, resulting in a less healthy dog.

Constipation that is a continuing problem can result in a dog has no desire to have a bowel movement or very little concern about it. As you can see, it is important to find a solution for constipation in dogs.

How to Overcome Constipation in Dogs

Basketball star Jason Williams with his dog

In most instances, constipation in dogs is easily corrected. You may be able to eliminate milder dog constipation simply by:

  • Not allowing your dog to eat indigestible items like bones or chew toys

  • Feeding him a diet higher in fiber

  • Providing your dog with enough clean water

  • Using a laxative like Milk of Magnesia for occasional constipation

For the ongoing prevention or relief of constipation, add a mineral supplement rich in magnesium to your dog’s drinking water. We give this to our cats in a daily bowl of milk, and it works like a charm. It is great for people, too! Magnesium has numerous health benefits.

Constipation may be more severe in a dog that is sick. When it takes feces longer to pass through the colon, it gives the colon more time to extract moisture, resulting in stool that is dry and hard, making defecation difficult and even painful.

When an animal's constipation doesn't respond well to treatment, it is called obstipation. Giving your dog a daily magnesium supplement may take care of this, but it may take many days to restore their colon to normal operation. Just add to their drinking water 1 drop for every two pounds of body weight each day.

Help from your veterinarian

If constipation is really bad, your vet can put your dog under, and then manually extract compacted stool. Or your vet may give your dog an enema to flush out stool. It may take your vet a number of tries before he is able to completely clean out the impacted stool.    

A Veterinarian should be able to press on the abdomen and do a rectal exam to confirm that your dog has impacted stool in his colon.  He may also choose to x-ray the dog's abdomen to confirm compacted stool and to tell whether it contains bones or other foreign matter.

Let your vet know if your dog tends to eat indigestible items, including garbage and bones. 

Constipation in Older Dogs

An older dog may try to urinate with little or no success, or may not bother trying to have a bowel movement for days on end. Both conditions are potentially serious. The dog who strains to urinate needs to see a vet right away.  Such blockages may result from stones blocking the urinary tract. This condition could be fatal if left untreated.

Your dog's failure to have a bowel movement may be the result of dietary imbalance, such as inadequate water intake or not the right kind of fiber.

Too little exercise and too many pounds are common problems among older dogs. It is also a common occurrence for older dogs to have a slow down in their stool production .  Getting an older dog up, perhaps taking a walk, can often help get things moving again.

Our dog Lady

Lady, our loved female Collie

Lady, our large female collie, was a perfect example of having a hard time with bowel movements and straining to go. It seemed that she drank a lot and every day we took her on long walks, but sometimes things she would find things to eat in our back yard that she wasn't supposed to eat. This seemed to hinder her bowel movements.

Our vet prescribed that we give her chicken and rice. This turned out to be perfect for her stomach, and boy did she love eating that with her other food! It helped her situation and put her back on tract with normal bowel movements again. That made her a very "happy" collie.

Then, after having a normal bowel movement, she would kick her hind legs high in the air as she brushed the grass beneath her, and then run like lightning around the back yard. She truly enjoyed being a healthy dog again.

Conditions older dogs may deal with

It could be that an older dog may be suffering from one of the following conditions:

  • A blockage in the intestinal tract, caused by something it shouldn't have eaten
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cancer

It is important to see your vet right away, so they can diagnose the problem and treat it.

How to overcome constipation in older dogs

Feeding an older dog more often can help relieve simple constipation.  When food enters your dog’s stomach, it’s gastro-colic reflex kicks into action, stimulating the reflex to poop.  The more often a dog gets a meal, the more the stimulation reflex, and the more urges to go.

Of course, the suggestion above about using a magnesium supplement can work wonders for older dogs as well. Magnesium helps draw more water into the colon. This moistens the stool, and helps to produce an urge to go.

By Linda

(Return from Constipation in Dogs to Home Remedy for Dog Constipation)

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