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Constipation in Dogs


Owners typically notice their pet having difficulty defecating with only a small, dry fecal ball following prolonged straining and may develop with any disease or condition that impairs passage of feces through the colon and this allows removal of additional salt and water producing a drier, harder feces. This generally causes lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting and abdominal pain.

There is an infinite number of causes of diarrhea but the most common a ingestion of foreign material (bones, hair, toys), certain drugs, rectal diseases (anal abscess, anal gland disorders), prostate problems, swollen abdominal lymph nodes, polyps/tumors, arthritis, and CNS disorders.

Many times a physical examination is all that is needed when diagnosing constipation, but fecal examinations, x-rays and other lab tests may be necessary because one must differentiate constipation from painful defecation and straining caused by inflammation of the colon (unlike constipation, it is associated with an increased frequency of attempts to poop and frequent production of small amounts of liquid feces containing blood or mucus) and straining to urinate (unlike constipation, can be associated with blood in the urine and abnormal findings on a urinalysis).

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Adequate hydration and electrolyte balance are important and the diet may need to be altered to include bulking agents such as Metamucil, canned pumpkin, or bran. Laxatives such as hairball medication may be given to small dogs and cats, while stool softeners such as docusate sodium can be given to larger dogs. Manual removal of feces with the animal under general anesthesia may be required if enemas and medication are unsuccessful. If due to a foreign body, laxatives and/or surgery may be necessary.

If your pet is straining to poop or is constipated…

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