What Causes Constipation In Dogs, Diagnosis, Treatment And Home Care


Canine Constipation

A constipated dog exhibits infrequent or difficult evacuation of the stool. The feces are usually hard and dry.

What Causes Constipation In Dogs ?

There are many causes of constipation in dogs. Some are not serious while others can be life-threatening.

Correct treatment depends on identifying the cause of your dog’s constipation. Constipation is most often caused by dietary or environmental factors.

  • Dietary: Fiber in the diet is important for normal defecation, just as with people. A dog food with high fat and gravy levels may also be deficient in fiber. Substances such as hair, bones, or other indigestible foreign matter will mix with the stool and cause constipation. Hairballs in cats are very common.
  • Environmental: Changes that can affect your dog’s routine, such as a hospital/boarding kennel stay, or lack of exercise can also cause problems.
  • Other Causes Of Constipation: 
    • Aging
    • Pelvic bone fractures
    • Rectal lesions, infections, or tumors
    • Prostate gland disease
    • Spinal cord problems
    • Color disorders
    • Hormone imbalances
    • Megacolon

Diagnosis Of Constipation:

If your dog is suffering from constipation, you should schedule an examination with your dog’s veterinarian.

Your dog’s veterinarian will need to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s constipation.

This may involve imaging studies such as radiographs (x-rays) and/or ultrasound studies of your dog’s abdomen.

Routine blood tests may be recommended.

In some cases, endoscopic examination (a study which involves visualizing the inside of the intestinal tract with a flexible tube with a camera attached) and biopsies of parts of the intestinal tract may be necessary to obtain a diagnosis.

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Treatment Of Constipation:

It may be possible to manage mild cases of constipation at home with high fiber diets and mild laxatives and stool softeners.

However, if constipation has resulted in a severe obstruction, it may be necessary to relieve the obstruction with an enema and/or manual evacuation of the feces. If manual evacuation of the feces is necessary, sedation or anesthesia may be required.

If an underlying cause is determined, such as a tumor in the rectal area, prostate gland disease, pelvic fractures, hormone imbalances, or megacolon, treatment of the underlying cause will be mandatory in controlling resulting constipation.


Home Care Management Of Constipation:

  • Diets rich in fiber can be used to aid in the control of constipation, just as with people.
  • The fiber increases water retention in the stool and softens it. The increased bulk also increases propulsive movements of the intestines to help with eliminations.
  • Twice daily, feed your dog a diet containing at least 10%  fiber. Your dog’s veterinarian may recommend a specific diet for your dog which is high in fiber. These diets can significantly reduce mild constipation.
  • Keep your dog well groomed. This reduces excess hair that is consumed due to your dog’s normal licking.
  • Regular exercise, especially about 1 hour after a meal, will help stimulate the bowels to empty.
  • For cats, keep the litter box clean.
  • Use mild laxatives or stool softeners as recommended by your dog’s doctor.

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