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Constipation in Dogs

By: Dr.Bari Spielman

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Constipation is infrequent, incomplete, or difficult defecation with passage of hard or dry feces. Constipation is sometimes used interchangeably with obstipation, which is intractable constipation where defecation becomes impossible. It may cause great distress and pain.

Causes

  • Dietary
  • Environmental
  • Drugs/Medications
  • Painful defecation
  • Mechanical obstruction (physical blockage)
  • Neurologic disease
  • Metabolic and Endocrine diseases

    What to Watch For

  • Straining to defecate and passing a small amount of feces or none at all
  • Hard, dry feces
  • Infrequent defecation
  • Small amount of liquid feces produced after prolonged straining
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis is usually made by a supportive history and physical examination findings. However, there are many tests that may also help. The following is a list of the most common tests that your veterinarian may recommend:

  • Baseline blood tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound

    Treatment

    There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat your dog with constipation symptomatically, prior to instituting a full diagnostic work up.

  • If an underlying cause has been identified, remove it if possible.

  • Discontinue any medications that may cause constipation. Your veterinarian will advise.

  • Alter the diet to include bulking agents such as methylcellulose, bran, or pumpkin.

  • Promote frequent exercise.

  • If a dog is severely impacted and/or dehydrated, it may be necessary to hospitalize for fluids, enemas, and possible manual removal of feces, which often necessitates general anesthesia.

    Home Care

    Your veterinarian may recommend some treatments at home. These may include:

  • The use of lubricants, suppositories or laxatives

  • Warm, soapy water enemas. Do not use over-the-counter enemas unless directed by your veterinarian. Some may be toxic to your dog.

  • Abdominal palpation. Owners of chronically constipated dogs may be taught to palpate their dog's colon abdominally to detect constipation before it progresses to obstipation.

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