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Constipation in Dogs

By: Dr.Bari Spielman

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Diagnosis In-depth

  • Obtaining a complete medical history (including diet, eating habits, environment) and performing a thorough physical examination including a thorough digital rectal examination are necessary in order to create an appropriate diagnostic plan for the constipated patient.

  • A complete blood count (CBC) will evaluate for the presence of systemic infection or inflammation sometimes associated with abscesses, fistulae, or prostatic disorders.

  • A biochemical profile evaluates kidney, liver, electrolytes (specifically, potassium and calcium), total protein, and blood sugar status. All of these parameters are important to establish in the chronically constipated patient, and to rule out the possibility of concurrent diseases.

  • A urinalysis helps evaluate the kidneys and hydration status of the patient.

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) may reveal colonic or rectal foreign bodies or tumors, prostatic enlargement, old pelvic fractures, hip dysplasia, and will reveal the degree of constipation.

  • Multiple fecal examinations are important to rule out gastrointestinal parasites, specifically whipworms, which can cause pain and straining associated with constipation.

    Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to insure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case-by-case basis.

  • A thyroid profile may be recommended in the chronically constipated dog, as hypothyroidism can be associated with constipation.

  • A parathyroid level may be recommended in the hypercalcemic (elevated calcium) constipated patient, as hyperparathyroidism has been associated with constipation.

  • An abdominal ultrasound evaluates the abdominal organs and helps assess for the presence of tumors. It is a very sensitive test in evaluating the prostate. The procedure is relatively safe, although it may require a mild sedative. It is often recommended that a specialist perform the procedure.

  • Colonoscopy (lower GI endoscopy) may be of benefit in the patient with constipation. It is a rather noninvasive way to evaluate the colon, and identify the presence of a tumor, stricture, or other lesion. Your veterinarian may also want to sample tissue for the presence of inflammation or cancer.

    Since it is necessary to "clean out" your dog to allow for proper visualization of the colon, oral solutions are administered the evening and morning before the procedure, in addition to several enemas. Hospitalization is brief, and healing is generally quick and uneventful. It does, however, necessitate general anesthesia, and therefore is associated with minor risks. It is often necessary to refer the patient to a specialist, and is only performed when other diagnostics are either inconclusive or the patient is not responding well to therapy.

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