Constipation In Dogs

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Constipation in dogs refers to the incomplete removal of feces from the colon. Dogs can make several difficult attempts to pass a bowel movement or the opposite, with infrequent attempts to pass feces with no success. When dogs are constipated, the feces will be hard or very dry. It is not to be confused with dogs that are straining to defecate due to colitis (inflammation of the colon) where the feces will be loose with blood and mucus present in scant amounts. Constipation is not a common problem seen in dogs but can occur with any condition inhibiting the passage of feces.

The most common signs that owners will observe when it comes to constipation in dogs are straining to defecate and not producing any feces, difficulty defecating and producing very small amounts of hard, dry feces, sometimes blood in the feces due to severe straining, vocalizing due to discomfort when trying to pass feces, and occasional vomiting if the straining persists. Moreover, dogs can become depressed and lose their appetite. Dogs will also become lethargic, as the abdominal contractions attempted to pass stool will deplete their energy.

Several factors can lead to the development of constipation. Dietary indiscretion is the most common cause, i.e., dogs eating bones, rocks, socks, or other foreign material. Some diets could also have too much fiber content and not enough water. Trauma to an animal can lead to constipation if the pelvis is fractured, as it will narrow the passage of the colon for feces removal. Also, anal sac disorders can cause painful defecation, leading to constipation. Next, an enlarged prostate in an un-neutered male dog can lead to constipation since it will impede the colon. There are also internal lymph nodes (sublumbar) that, if are enlarged due to an infectious or cancerous process, can severely impede the passage of feces. Additionally, tumors of the colon or rectum whether benign or malignant will lead to constipation. Certain drugs could also contribute to constipation especially if the animal is dehydrated. An underlying condition can be a major factor in most dogs presenting with constipation.

Constipation can be extremely uncomfortable in dogs. A combination of a physical examination, history, and thorough rectal examination is the best way to correctly diagnose the problem. On examination, the colon will be filled with feces, but the underlying condition can be diagnosed, whether its bones, rocks, or other materials in the rectum; rectal tumor; stricture due to a pelvic fracture or enlarged prostate; anal sac disorder; etc. Sometimes, an X-ray and further diagnostics are necessary to evaluate the patient. Treatment would address any underlying problems, hydrate the patient, and help facilitate the removal of feces from the colon. It may possibly involve enemas, laxatives, and a diet change.