Health & Wellness
Most dogs have routine bathroom habits, so if you notice that your dog’s #2s aren’t happening as frequently, they may be struggling with constipation.
“Constipation is a condition in animals that results in reduced frequency of defecation or pooping,” Dr. Lindsey Bullen, DVM, DACVIM, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington D.C., says. “Constipation is not a disease in and of itself, but rather, a condition or symptom that is secondary to other diseases.”
Dogs commonly experience constipation if they struggle with dehydration, a mechanical obstruction (something physically blocking their flow of stool), neurological disorders, severe obesity or back pain, Dr. Bullen says.
Constipation doesn’t affect certain dog breeds or ages more than others. However, pups who may be obese, eat things they shouldn’t, regularly get hernias or are exposed to lead are more susceptible to constipation.
Whether the constipation stems from dehydration or obesity, we’re breaking down the ways to spot the condition and the various treatment options.
Constipated dogs won’t poop as frequently (sometimes only every 2 to 3 days) and they may experience other symptoms, too, Dr. Bullen says. In addition to dry or firm stool, they may strain to poop or whine or show signs of pain before or after going to the bathroom.
If your dog is showing signs of constipation, encourage them to drink more water and reach out to your veterinarian. “Constipation is a little harder to diagnose in animals than it is in people, so getting veterinary advice is recommended prior to administering any self or home therapies,” Dr. Bullen says.
Veterinarians often diagnose a dog’s constipation through physical examinations, feeling their belly, X-rays or radiographs, Dr. Bullen adds.
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According to Dr. Bullen, treatments depend on the cause of constipation. Common treatments include:
Dr. Bullen adds that laxatives may not always be the best treatment option for your pup. Always talk to your veterinarian before introducing your dog to a laxative.
The recovery period for a constipated dog depends on the severity of their case. Dr. Bullen says that some dogs recover in a few hours while it may take other dogs days to feel better.
If you’re wondering whether human foods, like milk, would help your dog’s constipation, Dr. Bullen doesn’t recommend going the dairy route. “Milk may help with passing the stool, but that's because some dogs' lactose intolerances result in diarrhea and that, in turn ,can lead to dehydration,” Dr. Bullen says.
Constipated pets can benefit from more water and fiber in their diets. Stay away from anything that can cause a foreign body, Dr. Bullen warns.
Since constipation is a symptom of an underlying illness or condition, there isn’t a set way to prevent constipation in dogs. However, Dr. Bullen notes that ensuring your pup has a vet-approved, fibrous diet and lots of water will help reduce the risk of constipation.
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