While you can expect your dog's bowels to have occasional issues, constipation should be addressed quickly to prevent serious complications. Here, our Columbia vets share the common signs and causes of constipation in dogs and talk about when emergency care is needed. 

Constipation in dogs

Constipation is an infrequent or difficult passage of stool (poop). This is a temporary condition that usually clears up quickly once treatment begins. Obstipation, however, is a severe form of constipation. this condition is often connected to a serious, permanent or irreversible medical condition.

Water absorption is one of the main functions of the colon, causing the retained stool to become hard and dry. This can contribute to the difficulties that a dog can experience when attempting to defecate.

When a dog is constipated they are likely to strain while trying to pass stool. This can result in small amounts of liquid, including blood and feces, squeezing around the hardened stool. This can lead many dog owners to believe that their dog has diarrhea. 

How do I know if my dog is constipated?

There are several signs of constipation in dogs. Are your dog's bowel movements infrequent, difficult for them to pass or absent altogether? If so, your furry friend may be suffering from constipation.

Straining when attempting to pass a stool and/or producing hard, dry stools, are also considered signs that your dog should be examined by a vet as soon as possible.

Constipated dogs may pass mucus when trying to defecate, circle excessively, scoot along the ground, or squat frequently without defecating. If you press on their stomach or lower back, they may have a tense, painful abdomen that causes them to growl or cry out.

What causes constipation in dogs?

There is a wide range of potential contributing factors that can lead to constipation in dogs. Some of these include:

  • Insufficient daily exercise
  • Not enough fiber in the diet
  • Sudden change in diet or sampling new foods
  • Ingesting hair due to excessive self-grooming
  • Enlarged prostate gland
  • Neurological disorder
  • Side effects of medication
  • Abscessed or blocked anal sacks
  • Ingested pieces of toys, plants, dirt, bones, and gravel caught in the intestinal tract
  • Pain due to orthopedic issues when trying to defecate
  • Dehydration
  • Masses, tumors, or obstructions on the anus, or within the rectum
  • Matted hair around the anus
  • Trauma to pelvis

Is milk a good laxative for dogs?

While this information is swirling around the internet, milk is not a safe or healthy method of softening your dog's stool. Unfortunately, the effects of lactose on a dog can cause diarrhea, leading to serious complications.

Can changing dog food cause constipation?

Dogs do best when the type of food they eat is consistent. However, there may be times when a change in their food is necessary to meet their growing needs. The key is to switch foods slowly as an abrupt diet change can cause vomiting, excess gas, constipation or diarrhea.

When you begin to change their food you should mix it at a ratio of 25% new food and 75% current food. Every couple of days you should increase the amount of new food while decreasing the amount of the previous food. After a week or two you should have your dog eating the new food on its own.

When is constipation in dogs an emergency?

If your dog has a single episode of diarrhea and is otherwise acting normal, it is likely not a cause for concern. Monitor your dog's bowel movements to see if things clear up. More than 2 episodes could indicate a problem and you should contact your nearest emergency vet in Columbia, TN.

If your dog is straining to pass a stool but only passing small amounts of watery diarrhea, they could be experiencing a painful blockage due to the ingestion of a foreign object such as a toy. This is a very serious concern and needs veterinary attention right away, contact your vet or head to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital for care.

Recurring bouts of diarrhea over a short period could be a sign of a very serious health issue, particularly if your dog is very old, very young, or has a compromised immune system. Infections such as parvovirus are extremely serious, contagious, and life-threatening. Contact your vet right away if your dog is experiencing repeated episodes of diarrhea.

Dogs showing other symptoms as well as diarrhea should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. These include:

  • Blood in stool
  • Unusual drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Signs of dehydration (Sunken dry-looking eyes, dry nose, or dry, sticky gums)

If your dog is displaying any symptoms that cause you concern, contact your veterinarian or nearest emergency animal hospital in Columbia right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your pet in need of emergency veterinary care? Contact our Columbia vets right away or go to your nearest after-hours emergency animal hospital.