Constipation is the inability to pass a normal bowel movement as part of a regular routine, and just as this can be uncomfortable in people, your dog can also experience pain and discomfort. In severe cases, it can even mean a trip to the veterinarian.
A lack of regular bowel movements, or not passing any fecal matter at all
Your dog strains to pass anything, possibly appearing distressed and uncomfortable
Any stools that are passed are dry, dark in color, and much smaller than normal. They may be accompanied by mucus or blood
Your dog’s stomach might appear bloated and tight
A dog suffering from constipation will look uncomfortable, often with rapid breathing and they may roll, or stretch. However, other dogs can appear hunched up and be reluctant to move
These symptoms may be accompanied by a lack of appetite
What can cause your dog to become constipated?
Very simply, under normal circumstances, matter travels from the mouth, down the esophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, the matter is broken down by acid, which in dogs, is 100 times stronger than in humans, and the digestive process begins. Proteins and amino acids are absorbed by the body before the mushy, pulped mass passes through the pyloric sphincter and into the small intestine. Here the matter, now called chyme, is broken down still further as it passes along the length, and into the large intestines. Here the water from the matter is absorbed, and bacterial fermentation of any fiber occurs – this is often what causes flatulence. Finally, the matter is passed out of the body via the anus.
If anything upsets this process, causing an imbalance, this can manifest in diarrhea or constipation. Things that cause constipation are:
Too much, or not enough fiber in the dog’s diet
Lack of exercise
Foreign body – this can cause a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract. If this is the case, the symptoms can be much more pronounced and can include vomiting. If you suspect this to be the case, call your local vet as soon as possible
Medication side effects
What can you give your dog for constipation?
Your dog’s constipation can be treated at home with some simple remedies; however, if he doesn’t appear to be getting better in a timely fashion, or if you are concerned, always contact your veterinarian without delay.
Laxatives are designed to loosen and soften stools, allowing them to pass easily out of the body, but just like with humans, go easy on the dosing!
High in moisture and fiber, canned or fresh pumpkin is well worth keeping on standby. We have several cans in our dog medicine chests, replacing them if we ever need to use any. Although there are plenty of yummy recipes for pumpkin, for constipation, we recommend that it’s fed as it comes out of the can, or if you use fresh pumpkin, it should be peeled, cut into cubes, and stewed or steamed until soft.
Psyllium seed powder
Incredibly high in fiber, psyllium powder is excellent for easing constipation and encouraging good bowel movement. If your dog has frequent bouts of constipation, you may find it useful to sprinkle the powder on his feed a couple of times a week to ensure he’s receiving enough fiber in his diet. As dogs can go off their food with constipation, you may prefer to use capsules and pop them gently down his throat.
The juice from the aloe vera plant can help with many things, from skin problems and sore eyes to constipation. Dilute a little in your dog’s water bowl and encourage him to drink. Only mix a small amount as this will minimize any waste.
Apple Cider Vinegar
With the ability to help many issues, apple cider vinegar can be administered with the aid of a dropper several times a day to encourage healthy bowel movements to resume.
Increase your dog’s exercise routine
All dogs love exercise, and although you should be careful not to walk young pups too far – five minutes walking for every month of age over two months is plenty, and elderly, arthritic dogs, increasing their walks can help ease constipation. It also gives them something to think about, allows them to socialize, and generally have fun.
As always, if you are worried, and the symptoms don’t appear to be easing, head for your nearest veterinarian clinic.