What is Constipation:
Constipation refers to a reduced frequency or more difficult passing of stools. Dogs vary wildly in how often they normally poo, so you will have to know what is normal for your dog to know if they are going less frequently. There are many causes of constipation, which we will dive into later.
A constipated dog may poo less frequently or even not at all. If they do poo, the poo can be hard and rock-like, covered in mucous or blood, and is often small in quantity. Going to the toilet may be uncomfortable for your dog, so they may yelp or cry out. Sometimes they may try to pass stools but nothing comes out.
In extreme cases, the longer stool remains inside your dog’s colon, the more dried out it becomes. This is termed obstipation. As it becomes drier, the stools become harder and harder to pass, resulting in it becoming even more dried out in a vicious cycle. This can cause severe pain, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloating and even a condition called megacolon where the colon becomes stretched and damaged.
What can influence a dog’s frequency of defecation?
There are a number of factors involved…
Puppies usually eat more often, their metabolism is quicker, and they are not able to control their bowels as efficiently as adults. For these reasons, they also go to the toilet more often! On the other hand, our older companions move less, have a slower metabolism and lower energy requirements. Therefore, tend to pass drier, smaller faeces, less often.
It is not surprising that what we give our dogs to eat (and what they pick up on walks) hugely influences the quality and frequency of their faeces. A good quality diet usually contains more nutrients per gram of food, meaning your dog needs to eat less for the same nutritional intake. Conversely, when we feed our dogs poor quality diets, they usually need to eat a larger amount meaning (you guessed it), more poop! Changes in diet interfere with the intestinal flora and can change faeces consistency, colour and quantity.
If you are feeding your dog a high-quality diet, you should not need to supplement it with more fibre; however, there are exceptions. If your dog’s intestinal health is not as regular or as healthy as it could be, you can have a conversation with your vet about increasing your dog’s fibre intake. Most nutritional sources suggest about 5% fibre is optimal for dogs – lower than in humans. Either too much or too little can cause problems.
If your dog’s appetite has been lower than usual, this will likely be reflected in a lower frequency of defecation and is not necessarily related to their intestinal health.
So, dogs who are fed more often tend to pass faeces more often too; generally, eight to twelve hours after food has been consumed.
Keeping a regular exercise routine with your pet will encourage regular motions too. If dogs exercise less as a result of injury, hospitalisation, staying in kennels while you go on holidays or simply because the weather hasn’t helped your motivation to go outside for long walks, it is normal and expected that they will poop less too.
This can increase or decrease the frequency of defecation and alter faeces consistency. Even with a healthy digestive system, anxious dogs may not feel comfortable to defecate in environments they don’t feel safe in and may hold it for longer. You can try walking them with a long lead to give them the freedom to choose an appropriate place. And taking them to more private locations, free from noise, other people and dogs.
This may either be directly or by interfering with dogs’ metabolism. Furthermore, periods of stillness associated with anaesthesia and hospitalisation decrease motility too. It is not unusual for dogs to take up to four days to pass motions after a period of hospitalisation.
What can I give my dog for constipation?
Google “How to help a constipated dog” and you’ll find wide-ranging advice, from sources both trustworthy and dubious that will tell you what to do if your dog is constipated.
Never give your dog medications or treatments formulated for humans without consulting your vet first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.
The best thing to do is contact your veterinarian and bring your dog in for an exam. The treatment for your dogs constipation will depend upon the underlying cause of your pups condition.
If your pooch has eaten something they shouldnt have there is a chance that there is a blockage causing the issue. This is a medical emergency that will likely require urgent surgery.
Blood tests may help reveal that your pup has an infection or is suffering from dehydration. The vet will likely take a medical history, conduct a rectal examination to rule out other causes or abnormalities, and may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:
Follow your vet’s instructions closely, as trying too many of these or the wrong combination may bring on the opposite problem – diarrhea. You don’t want to trade one digestive problem for another.
Puppy Not Pooping? (How long can they go and remedy)
When your dog isn’t pooping as much as they usually do, or at all, they are probably constipated. If they do poop, the stool will be small, hard, and dry, and it will be painful as your dog struggles to pass it.
Most dogs defecate 1-3 times per day, often after a meal. Normal stool is soft but still holds its form. Constipation is uncommon in dogs, but often easy to treat. It can also be mild or severe.
Severe constipation can lead to a condition called obstipation, in which defecation is impossible. Prolonged or repeated obstipation can lead to megacolon. In this condition, the muscles of the colon wall become permanently stretched and can no longer function properly.
Here’s what you need to know about constipation in dogs, from signs and causes to when you can treat it at home and when you need to go to the vet.
After your dog eats, the food enters their digestive tract. The main organs involved in digestion are the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (also called the colon).
The colon is one of the last steps in the digestive process. It receives chyme (a mass of mostly digested food and digestive juices) from the small intestine, and then absorbs electrolytes and water from the mass as the feces travels toward the rectum. The mass is guided through the colon by natural lubrication and the rhythmic action of the colon wall muscles.
If the fecal material slows down as it travels, the colon will continue to absorb the salts and water from it. The result is smaller, drier feces that are more difficult for the colon to move forward, and your dog becomes constipated.
The easiest symptom to recognize is seeing your dog straining to defecate, but this can be easily confused with other problems such as diarrhea and having trouble peeing.
If you see that your dog can’t urinate, call an emergency vet right away, as this is a medical emergency.
As constipation becomes more severe, your dog may become lethargic, stop eating, or begin vomiting. If you see any of these signs, call an emergency vet right away.
The number one reason for constipation in dogs is eating things that are indigestible, which become lodged in the colon, preventing feces from advancing. Other reasons for constipation include:
Your first instinct may be to try to solve your dog’s constipation at home. But in certain cases, your dog may need to see the vet. Here are some guidelines for getting your dog the right treatment.