Constipation in dogs: how to treat it

Constipation in dogs is more common in older dogs but all ages and breeds can suffer from it. It should never be ignored  as extended periods of distress can cause serious health concerns.

Constipation signs and symptoms

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

Causes of constipation

The most common cause of dog constipation is swallowing objects that are not easily digested, if at all, such as a piece of dry bone. However, it can also be caused by:

  • Slower intestinal processes
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney disease
  • Hernias
  • Swallowing grass or hair

What to do if your dog is constipated

If you can see a thread or string in the anus, DO NOT try to pull it  out. This can cause internal damage. Other important things to note:

  • Always wear rubber gloves when dealing with faeces and related anal problems.
  • If you can see grass in the anus, gently ease it out.
  • If faeces are matted around the anus, trim carefully with scissors.
  • Wash the anal region with warm, soapy water and apply a soothing, water-soluble jelly (such as K-Y) to the inflamed area.
  • Take the dog’s temperature. If it is abnormally high or there is blood on the thermometer or resistance when inserting the thermometer, see your veterinarian immediately (within 24 hours).
  • If the constipation persists for more than 24 hours, see your vet. It could be indicative of a more serious health problem.

Long-haired dogs, especially small ones like Yorkies and Lhasa Apsos, can become frantic with the discomfort caused by matted faeces around the anus and the trimming process. You may need to soak the dog’s posterior in warm water before you begin trimming to make it more comfortable.

Treatment for constipation

In some cases, a dog may need to be hospitalised and given enemas to remove or pass an obstruction located in the anus. Fluids under the skin may be administered to ensure good hydration to the intestinal tract. In cases of intact males where the prostate is the cause of the constipation, castration will be recommended. And in severe cases of constipation, your veterinarian may administer fluids intravenously.

Living with constipation

Some dogs have a history of periodic constipation, especially as they get older. Adding a little olive oil to the dog’s meal can help in these cases. However, you should never administer the oil orally; if it ends up in the lungs, which can occur easily, it can cause pneumonia. Your veterinarian may also recommend stool softeners as well as fibre supplementation or a change in your dog’s diet to assist in the intestinal transit. As dogs age their diets need to change to adapt to their ageing bodies’ needs.

Prevention

Although it is natural for a dog to eat grass on occasion, this habit should be controlled as much as possible. Avoid giving your dog bones; substitute a chew toy instead. Chat with your EberVet Vetshop or veterinarian about gentle laxatives to soften the stool and above all else, provide your dog with water regularly.

Neutering your dog at an early age will also prevent growth of the prostate, which can lead to constipation in dogs.

article extracted from PetMD